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TSA demonstrates airport pet-security checkpoints

Mary Waldron walks through security with her 10-year-old

Mary Waldron walks through security with her 10-year-old rescue dog Daisy during a TSA demonstration about traveling with pets through security at LaGuardia Airport on Aug. 12, 2014 in Queens. Credit: Jason Andrew

Traveling on summer vacations with a dog or cat doesn't slow down airport checkpoints, the TSA said at a demonstration Tuesday, but please don't put your pet through the X-ray baggage scanner.

Officials said at the pet security-checkpoint demonstration at LaGuardia Airport that they don't want flying with a pet to be intimidating.

"It really isn't much harder, and doesn't really take longer, than going through the normal security screening," said Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein, who narrated the demonstration at a security checkpoint by volunteer Mary Waldron, a TSA attorney adviser, and her Yorkie mix, Daisy.

"There is a right way, and there is a wrong way, and the wrong way is to put your pet in the carrier and send the whole thing through, because we certainly don't want to X-ray the pet," Farbstein said.

At the TSA checkpoint, a passenger is asked to remove the pet from its carrier and bring the animal through the metal detector with them -- either by walking it on a leash, or carrying it, Farbstein said. Whether the passenger walks or carries the pet, leashes are recommended by TSA to control the animal, whether it is a cat or a dog.

"The idea is, you're being screened, and so is your pet," Farbstein said. "We're making sure there are no explosive devices on the pet or in the case."

After passing through the metal detector, a TSA agent gives the passenger's hands an explosive trace detection swab, and if cleared, the passenger can return the pet to its carrier and continue on as normal.

Lavonda Lahti, 44, of St. Louis, said she doesn't travel often with her dog, but when she does, she puts him in checked baggage. She said taking him on the plane seemed like "a hassle" because she thought it required drastic preparations. After learning about the process for carry-on animals, she said it was much easier than she had imagined.

"That's really convenient for people who really want to go somewhere with their dog," Lahti said. "I had no idea it was that easy."

Farbstein said regulations vary by airlines, so passengers should check pet-travel restrictions for their own flight regarding types and sizes of pets allowed.

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