TSA tips on traveling with pets through a security checkpoint at Norfolk International Airport

Travelers should never put their pets through a checkpoint X-ray unit
Local Press Release
Wednesday, April 5, 2023
A traveler removes her pet dog from its travel carrier at the security checkpoint and sends the carrier into the X-ray machine. (TSA photo)

NORFOLK, Va. - Traveling through an airport security checkpoint with a pet can be easy when travelers know what to expect. Small pets can travel in the cabin of an aircraft with their owners after Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officers screen pets at the security checkpoint.

It is important to remember to remove your pet from its carrier at a security checkpoint. Never send a pet through the X-ray unit. (TSA photo)
It is important to remember to remove your pet from its carrier at a security checkpoint. Never send a pet through the X-ray unit. (TSA photo)

“Pets often travel with their humans and are thought of like family members,” says Robin “Chuck” Burke, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Federal Security Director for the airport. “That’s why it’s important that if a passenger is traveling with their pet to become familiar with the security procedures for pets and how to go through the checkpoint security screening process together quickly and easily.”

“The main thing to know about traveling through a security checkpoint with your pet is to know that they should never be screened through a checkpoint X-ray unit,” says Jeffrey Horowitz, TSA’s Assistant Federal Security Director for Norfolk International Airport. “Only your veterinarian should be exposing your pet to X-rays.”

Preparing for a pet to be screened is simple when these easy steps are followed:

  • All pets should be brought to a security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier.
  • Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.
  • Place the empty travel carrier on the checkpoint conveyor belt so it can be X-rayed.
  • Never place a pet in the X-ray tunnel. The X-ray at the security checkpoint is used to screen passengers’ personal property and carry-on luggage only.
  • If possible, carry the pet through the walk-through metal detector during the screening process. Alternately, a pet can walk through the screening process if the owner has the pet on a leash. Best to listen to the guidance that a TSA officer is providing.
    After walking through the metal detector, a TSA officer swabs the hands of a passenger who carried her pet dog through the security checkpoint. (TSA photo)
    After walking through the metal detector, a TSA officer swabs the hands of a passenger who carried her pet dog through the security checkpoint. (TSA photo)
  • A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the owner’s hands.
  • After the screening process is complete, owners should return their pet to the travel carrier at the re-composure area away from the security checkpoint. This location helps ensure the safety of the pet as well as other passengers.

Travelers should hold their pet as they walk through the metal detector. Alternatively, the pet can be walked through the metal detector on a leash. (TSA photo)
Travelers should hold their pet as they walk through the metal detector. Alternatively, the pet can be walked through the metal detector on a leash. (TSA photo)

Pet travel restrictions vary by airline and airport, so it is important to check with the air carrier before traveling with a pet. Norfolk International Airport has several pet relief areas located at the Departures Terminal in grassy areas near Door A, Door C and Door D, at the Arrivals Terminal in grassy areas near Door 0 and Door 5, and near the Daily East Parking Lot in the grassy area near the pedestrian sidewalk. Per Norfolk City Code-Section 4-10, pets are not permitted inside airport terminals unless they are traveling by air in a kennel or carrier or are needed to perform an essential service for their owner. Service and emotional support animals must be on a leash while on the premises.

Other helpful travel tips to make a trip through security with a pet as easy as possible include:

  • Acclimate the pet to the process of traveling by familiarizing it with the travel carrier in the days leading up to the trip. This familiarization will help ensure the pet is more relaxed as it travels through the security process and the airport.
  • Be on the lookout for “working” canines and handlers at the airport. Areas where it is common to see a working dog at airports may include a security checkpoint or in the terminal concourse. If you encounter a working canine, please consider shifting to an alternate checkpoint so that there is no interference with a government working dog’s tasks.
  • Know the temperament of your pet and ensure that you can maintain control of it in a busy and potentially crowded airport. This is especially important for cats, who often get skittish when they are removed from their pet carrier and hear and see the sounds and sights of a checkpoint.
  • Travelers who have pets that may be skittish when removed from a pet carrier, and may attempt to struggle or jump away should request that a TSA officer screen the pet in a private screening room. The traveler will be escorted to the room with the pet still in its carrier.
  • When traveling with service animals and pets, it is a good idea to contact your airline directly for policy details as they vary by airline and time of year.
  • Travelers should become familiar with the pet relief areas at their departing airport and arrival airport.
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