Anyone who has ever tried to travel with an animal will know just how difficult it can be, and almost nothing is more stressful than air travel with a pet!
Now, however, many pet owners have a new worry besides just whether to buy an extra seat for their pet or having too large of a carrier. Some pet owners have been unsettled by a new law, passed by the European Union at the beginning of 2015, which ensures that all airports in EU member states must scan animals before they board a plane.
Scanning can mean different procedures in different security systems, but in two Austrian airports, specifically in the cities of Klagenfurt and Graz, anyone traveling with a pet now must send their pet through the x-ray scanner along with their carry-ons, instead of walking through metal detectors.
This new standard has been put in place so that security can guarantee that the animals aren’t being used to smuggle explosives or drugs. However, these two airports are currently the only ones in either Austria or the European Union to enforce the law in this manner. The Salzburg airport, for example, has a special metal detector just for pets, and in Vienna pet owners can carry their pets through the regular metal detectors.
Many pet owners are incensed by the idea of sending their pets through an x-ray scanner, and are especially concerned about pet blindness due to exposure of radiation onto their pets’ eyes.
However, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the amount of radiation transferred onto anything sent through the airport x-ray system is extremely low, coming only to one millirad or less. For comparison, the minimum dosage used to irradiate the food we eat is 30,000 rads (with 1,000 millirad per rad.) Even with this standard in place, in the United States, no airport should ever ask you to send your pet through an x-ray machine! The official policy of the TSA is,
“You will need to present the animal to the Security Officers at the checkpoint. You may walk your animal through the metal detector with you. If this is not possible, your animal will have to undergo a secondary screening, including a visual and physical inspection by our Security Officers. Your animal will NEVER be placed through an X-ray machine. However, you may be asked to remove your animal from its carrier so that the carrier can be placed on the X-Ray machine.”
That being said, this hasn’t stopped at least two separate travelers this summer, both at LAX airport in California, from trying to send their pets through the x-ray machine meant for baggage. One man, ticketed on a Jet Blue flight, did successfully have his cat passed through the scanner in non-pet carrier bag. Not only were other travelers in the security area duly horrified, but the TSA agents present were incensed. Luckily, the cat was unharmed. (See man’s photo, and tweets from other passengers on NBC4’s website.)
The moral of the story seems to be, don’t send a pet through an x-ray machine unless at specific Austrian airports equipped with special scanners—and when in doubt, don’t make traveling with a pet more difficult than it already is!
Tips from TSA for traveling with pets:
- 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 luggage. 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 process 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 at the re-composure area, away from the security checkpoint for the safety of the pet as well as other passengers.