How to Get Through a TSA Security Line With Your Pet

Updated: Jun. 06, 2023

It might seem confusing, but there are a few guidelines to follow that will make it easier.

When it comes to going through airport security with pets, it can be confusing and chaotic—especially if passengers are unsure how exactly to get their pets through security. “Pets are often treated like family members and as such, sometimes travel with their humans,” Robert Duffy, TSA Federal Security Director for LaGuardia Airport, has said.

That’s why the TSA released a handy guide for traveling pet owners on what to know when bringing pets through security at LaGuardia Airport. While this is specific to one airport, it’s good information to know across the board. Once known, the process is simple.

How do I get through TSA with a pet?

According to TSA, pets must be brought to security checkpoints in a hand-held travel carrier. If you don’t happen to have one, these are our favorite dog carriers and cat carriers for your next trip! Once your pet is removed from the carrier at the start of the screening process, the carrier can be placed on the security checkpoint conveyor belt to be X-rayed.

Most importantly, TSA notes that pets should never be X-rayed. Although, TSA has tweeted this has occurred far more frequently than one might think. X-ray checkpoints are solely intended for personal items and luggage. But don’t worry—if pets do go through an X-ray machine, the radiation quantity is not lethal.

Instead, pets should be carried or walked with a leash through the walk-through metal detectors. Then, owners can expect a TSA officer to give their hands an explosive trace detection swab, which ensures there isn’t explosive residue on the owner’s hands. Finally, owners can return their pet to their travel carrier at a “re-composure area” away from the checkpoint.

How can I help prepare my pet for the airport security process?

Although pet security guidelines vary by airline and airport, TSA offers some other general tips to keep in mind.

First, TSA recommends that owners should help pets get used to the travel carrier they’ll be in. They also suggest being aware of government dogs—called “working” canines—that may be around the airport.

Furthermore, TSA emphasizes the importance of knowing the behaviors or temperaments of your pet prior to bringing them in public. More skittish dogs and cats may feel anxious. If the pets are extremely skittish, they may have to be escorted to a private screening room.

Lastly, the most important thing to keep in mind is to listen to the guidance of the TSA officer helping you through security.

Are there different policies for service animals and pets?

Airlines will have different policies for service animals and pets. The guidelines suggest that it is important to contact your airline directly.

However, as there are for regular pets, there will most certainly be service animal/pet relief areas around LaGuardia and at airport terminals.

Now that you have these TSA tips, you can start planning your next vacation with your pet to these best places to travel in 2023.

cute small dog popping his head out of the pet carrier at the airportEva Blanco/Getty Images

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  • TSA: “TSA tips on traveling with pets through a security checkpoint at LaGuardia Airport”