NORFOLK, Va. — With 36.5 percent of households across the country owning dogs and 30.4 percent of households with cats*, many individuals want to fly with their small pets when they travel by air. Passing through the Transportation Security Administration checkpoint at Norfolk International Airport as well as at other airports across the country with a small pet can be easy if travelers know what to expect.
“TSA understands that for many pet owners, their animals are considered family members and they may want to travel together,” says Norfolk’s TSA Assistant Federal Security Director Jeffrey Horowitz. “Becoming familiar with the procedures of how to pass through a TSA checkpoint quickly and easily is the first step to a great trip for pets and their humans.”
If a pet is traveling in the cabin of an airplane with its owner, TSA must screen it at the security checkpoint. Small dogs and cats are the most common pets that passengers want to travel with to their destination. Below is what pet owners can expect:
- All pets should be brought to the security checkpoint in a hand-held travel carrier. Remove the pet from the carrier just prior to the beginning of the screening process.
- Do not put the pet into the X-ray tunnel, which is used to screen a passenger’s personal property and carry-on baggage. Place the empty travel carrier on the belt to be X-rayed.
- The pet should be carried during the screening process; alternately, a pet can walk through the scanner if the owner has the pet on a leash.
- A TSA officer will give the pet owner’s hands an explosive trace detection swab to ensure there is no explosive residue on the hands.
- Once the screening process is completed, owners should return the pet to the travel carrier.
Other helpful travel tips to make the trip through the checkpoint 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 will help ensure it is more relaxed as it travels through the security process and the airport.
- Avoid bringing pets to an area of the airport where a “working” canine is operating with its handler. Areas where it is common to see a working canine may include a security checkpoint or in the airport concourse.
- Know the temperament of your pet and ensure that you can maintain control of it in a busy and potentially crowded environment at the airport. For example, it’s a good idea to use a leash or harness for a cat when removing it from a travel carrier because cats are easily “spooked” in noisy, unfamiliar environments such as checkpoints and may unintentionally scratch the pet owner in order to jump down, run off and hide.
- Prior to arriving at the checkpoint, consider visiting one of the airport’s designated “pet relief” areas.
- Pet travel restrictions vary by airline, so check with the airline before arriving at the airport.
TSA screens approximately 2 million passengers and their luggage every day for prohibited items, including weapons and explosives. To do this, TSA uses imaging technology to safely screen passengers for any items which may be concealed under clothing, while X-ray units screen all carry-on baggage.
*Statistics on pet ownership came from the American Veterinary Medical Association website.