Where is Jack?

Making Air Travel Safe for Pets

Avoid the Perils of TSA Screening (with video!)


As those of you who have been following this blog for a while know, traveling with a pet is difficult – and dealing with the airlines is not the only challenge. The case of Xiaowha highlighted how tragedy can happen as a result of the security screening process for pets who are traveling internationally. And my own experience with flying Maggie the cat to Bozeman, Montana (see Facebook posts from January 2013 for more about our journey) taught me that asking for what you need using TSA’s language (e.g., PRIVATE SCREENING) is critical to keeping your furry baby safe when you travel.


Kitten and transporter doing TSA check-in at DFW, 7/7/13.

But what if TSA isn’t following their own procedures?

On July 7, 2013, a shelter cat (8-week-old kitten, actually) from Arlington, TX was being transported from Dallas-Fort Worth airport to Seattle-Tacoma airport via Alaska Airlines. The transporter was someone who had answered a CraigsList ad looking for help with a transport. She was not an experienced handler. An experienced and travel-savvy volunteer from the shelter (FoJ Debbie Daugherty McClendon) accompanied the transporter in their dealings with Alaska Airlines and to the TSA screening line. Ms. McClendon requested that the transporter and kitten be placed in a private screening room, but she was told that no such thing existed at that location. They asked another agent and were then told the same thing. At that point, the transporter became uncomfortable with pressing on the TSA officers for private screening, took the kitten out of the bag, and carried her through screening while the bag went through the conveyor belt x-ray machine. LUCKILY, nothing happened. Kitten was returned to its carrier, and kitten and transporter made it to Sea-Tac and to the kitten’s new family and home without any problem.

The WIJ team was HORRIFIED by this whole incident. The TSA website clearly states that “passengers can request private screening at any time” – implying that private screening is always available!! Where, then, were the private screening facilities at this terminal in DFW – a huge and busy airport??

It took a little time, but the TSA did finally give us some information. Their response:

“At the E15/16 checkpoints, we do not have the facilities of a “private room”
however, the private screening is completed away from the checkpoint in
another facility that is semi private. If you fly regularly with this
airline you might want to go through the E8 checkpoint where we do have
a “private room” in the checkpoint.”

So, it seems, there is more code to know.  The bottom line is, though, that at particular gates in particular airports it may not always be possible for TSA to do a private screening that will allow us to fly safely with animals — and particularly with a cat or kitten.

In response to this information, we’ve made a little video to explain a procedure that provides a some insurance in case you and your cat or kitten ever find yourself in the predicament that Debbie Daugherty McClendon and that transporter found themselves in. You don’t want to have to rely on luck – especially if your kitty is more than a few weeks old!!

(And if you’re interested, the cat harness pictured in the video is available from our friend Lisa at DryFur.tv – tell her Jack sent you!!)

9 thoughts on “Avoid the Perils of TSA Screening (with video!)

  1. Thank you for your Newsletter and all of your efforts. Jack still breaks my heart. I hate how the airlines treat animals. Did they ever find Xiaowha? Warmest, Bonnie Date: Mon, 15 Jul 2013 20:28:42 +0000 To: bboyuk@hotmail.com

  2. How do you travel on an airline when you have THREE cats? this problem keeps me up at night. Seriously. We are moving from Maine to Arizona.

    • The short answer is you need to have 2 other people with you, or make 3 flights (one with each cat). Standard in-cabin travel with pets allows only one pet per person, and many (though not all) airlines have limits of 2, 3 or 4 pets per cabin (which means x number in first class and x number in coach). Whatever you do, DO NOT allow a “pet relocation” service to fly your kitties without you – they will be flown in cargo and there will be absolutely no reporting requirements should anything happen!!! I would be happy to discuss this with you further and brainstorm some solutions – and feature your story on this blog!!! Please contact me (Mary Beth) at 305-582-5884 and we’ll figure it out… so that both you and your kitties will be as relaxed and happy as cross-country moving allows!!!

  3. Very good idea for the cats, i took mine up there with me and i had to hand hold her going tru, they made me take off the coller and leash, but she was ok, she was sedated , wich is a good thing to do for cats. thanks

  4. Hello… Just flew 2 on my cats cross country from Oakland to Buffalo. The first cat was feral and I didnt know about private screening. OAKLAND AIRPORT was VERY HELPFUL taking me into a private room to remove the cat from the carrier, ran the carrier thru and then brought it back to me. i appreciated it very much… the 2nd cat was fine so I didn’t take advantage of it, but if I had to do it again, I would ask for the private room. I could feel my cats heart rate increase. It is VERY STRESSFUL for a cat to be in a huge strange room full of noisely strangers. Please ask to make it easier on your cat and report if it’s not available.

  5. Mary Beth, I admire your commitment to this cause – and very impressed by your persistence. I watched the video (although I’ve made only two trips by air in my life and don’t expect to make any more), and when Jack’s photo came up, so did my tears. My heart still breaks for him, although I know he’s happy and healthy, waiting at Rainbow Bridge. Thank you for your efforts; may Jack’s Creator bless you with all good things.

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