Houston Airport officials warn travelers not to send their pets through x-ray machines

“Unless the animal makes a noise, most of our officers don’t realize that there’s an animal in a piece of luggage until they see it on our screen. And it horrifies them too.”


Patricia Ortiz/Houston Public Media
Alton Dulaney, the curator of public art at Houston airports with his dog, Leo, getting checked for traces of explosives.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is asking people to prepare properly if they plan to travel with their pets before they get to a security checkpoint because of a rise in pets ending up in X-ray machines.

TSA employees at Hobby Airport provided a demonstration of how to safely take a pet through a security checkpoint on Wednesday. They warn that a pet going through an X-ray machine could expose them to potentially harmful radiation.

Patricia Mancha is the spokesperson for Texas TSA and said pets often end up in X-ray machines when travelers are unprepared.

"They just assume, ‘Oh, the TSA officer should know that there's a dog in here.' But if you look at some of the pet carriers today, they look like luggage," Mancha said. "And unless the animal makes a noise, most of our officers don't realize that there's an animal in a piece of luggage until they see it on our screen. And it horrifies them too."

Mancha said these situations have become more common recently because more people have begun traveling after the pandemic. She said travelers should always check in with an airline beforehand to see if pets are even allowed.

"Some of them have weight restrictions, some of them have size restrictions, some of them don't allow it at all," Mancha said.

Patricia Ortiz/Houston Public Media
Minka, an airport therapy dog, whose job is literally to get pet by anxious people at the airport.

Billy Rudolph with the City of Houston spoke on behalf of the BARC Animal Shelter. He said pet owners should always make sure their pets will be comfortable.

"Go and visit your vet and see if there's any medication your pet might need to stay calm. Make arrangements for that," he said. "Have a plan whenever you get to the TSA checkpoint area to pull your pet out of the carrier, have him on a leash, and put him back in after."

Rudolph said while the pet doesn't need to be X-rayed, the carrier itself still does.

Rusty Payne is the spokesperson for Houston's Customs and Border Protection at the Department of Homeland Security. He said when it comes to pets, he usually deals with international medicines and forged documents.

"Whether it has to do with competition or safety issues, there are prohibited items. So you have to be informed about what you can and can't bring back from international travel," Payne said.

Payne also recommended that while preparing to travel with a pet, a pet owner should have the proper documentation.

"You never wanna get off a flight and not be able to enter the United States with your pet and not have the proper documentation and the things that you need," he said.

Patricia Ortiz

Patricia Ortiz


Patricia Ortiz is a daily reporter for News 88.7. Her work includes a variety of topics including transportation, technology, energy, immigration and education. Patricia graduated from the University of Houston in Fall 2022 with a Bachelor's in Journalism. She spent most of her college career at the university's literary magazine,...

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