Advice for flying with four-legged friends during the holidays

The holiday season is here, which means more and more people are traveling and many of them, whether by choice or necessity, are bringing along a four-legged family member.

"Whiskey is a service dog for my neurological disorders.  So, he's an alert and response dog for that," said traveler Mariah Houser. 

When we caught up with Houser, she was flying out to Denmark. This is not her first time flying with him so this is something both were ready for.

"Luckily, we've never had any problems. Most of the time, we have a row to ourselves, or near dog lovers," Houser said. 

Whiskey may be a service dog, but with some noted exceptions, most of the rules that apply to him actually apply to your own Fido and Fluffy. When thinking about flying with your pet, though, you've to consider a lot.

"I think people want to take their pets everywhere, in the new generations," said Dr. Ed Faulkner with Wellington Animal Hospital. 

Faulkner also serves as vice president of the North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association. He says, if you're planning on flying with your pet, they should be among the first things to consider, partly because there's usually an additional cost to take a pet along.

"I would say a minimum of two weeks ahead of time so you can check the boxes on what's needed," Faulkner said. 

So, what are those checks?

"If you're flying, you need to call the airline to figure out what they need paper-wise, a certificate of veterinary inspection, if they need a letter of accommodation, what they're going to require for your specific flight," said Faulkner.

Many people don't realize this, but if you take a pet out of state you have to have proof of up to date shots; that's the certificate of veterinary inspection.  

There is no flat rule for animals on flights, except for service animals. Faulker says anything else, varies by airline, and even flight and situation. Small dogs and cats can potentially go with you in the cabin with a carrier, but bigger dogs can't and would have to be in cargo.

"A Great Dane is not going to fit in an overhead bin or underneath the passenger seat," Faulkner said. 

Once you get to the airport, there's even more of a process.

"We will see an increase in the number of pets that come through the checkpoint during the holidays, and we're prepared for that," said Lori Dankers with TSA.

TSA took FOX 46 through what to expect.

"What we recommend is getting the pet out of the carrier, have a leash, hold the pet," TSA said. "Our officers will swab the hands of the owner so there's no explosives detection." 

One thing you don't want to do is to try to hide your pet while flying out. These days, it's nearly impossible to do with the scanning machines, and if that happens it can lead to a headache that you don't want.

TSA emphasized that they only inspect to make sure the pet coming through is clear. The ultimate decision on an animal flying is actually left up to the airline.