Tips for flying with a small pet

Shauna Turner Jones and her son Opel take the leash off their dog Sophie before putting it and her carrier through the baggage scanner at the security checkpoint. (WTOP/Megan Cloherty)

WASHINGTON — More travelers than ever are deciding to bring their pets along with them on summer vacation. And although the idea of flying with a pet can be daunting, experts and experienced travelers have some tips.

Shaundra Turner Jones says she preps her terrier, Sofie, two days before a trip.

“We take her travel bag out, and leave it out, let her become comfortable with it. We let her know she’ll be traveling. And then on the day of, we just make her as calm as possible,” Jones says.

Pets can travel in a carrier as long as it fits through the bag scanner at airport security, says Lisa Farbstein, spokeswoman for the Transportation Security Administration.

She cautions travelers not to put the carrier through the X-ray scanner with their pet inside.

“So, very simply, the person walks through with their pet in their arms and after they get through the metal detector, the officer will swab your hands,” Farbstein says.

The swab is to test for explosives, she says.

After security, pets can stay in the carrier or be let out if they’re on a leash. However, Jones doesn’t recommend it.

“A lot of times other travelers will come up and they want to see what’s inside the bag and pet her and that gets her anxious. She’s not used to that. So we try to keep that to a minimum,” Jones says.

She suggests not feeding your pet too close to your departure time, but if your pet needs to go to the bathroom, at Reagan Washington National Airport they’ll have to relieve themselves before going through security. Washington Dulles International has a pet relief area near the gates.

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