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.
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!!)