They screen pets, don't they?

Published 19 April 2010

The Israeli security authorities are now alerting pet owners that their pets, if they look like “suspicious animals,” may be subjected to X-ray screening before boarding; if the owners refused, the pet would not be allowed on the flight; more than four million pets are flown across the world each year

In the cat-and-mouse tactics between security experts and terrorists trying to bomb airliners, dogs and cats and other family pets are the latest to suffer more intrusive security checks before flying, as Israeli authorities may now require animals to be X-rayed before boarding jets.

Jerusalem Post’s Arieh O’Sullivan writes that Israeli security services have reportedly ordered a retooling of screening at national airports which will require suspicious animals to go through X-ray machines to make sure bombs have not been hidden inside their bodies by terrorists.

Any pet owner who refuses will not be allowed to board their flight unless they leave their pet behind, according to the Israeli Internet news site NRG. It said security screeners at airports have received new instructions requiring them to pass dogs and cats and other pets of suspicious passengers through X-ray machines.

Security officials at Ben-Gurion Airport refused to discuss the matter. A spokeswoman for the Airport Authority would not confirm or deny the report, but told the Media Line their security procedures were dictated by national agencies.

“The Airport Authority is responsible for the security of millions of travelers every year. It carries out this task according to instructions from government authorities who guide us in taking all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of the travelers,” said Airport Authority spokeswoman Ma’ayan Malchin. “For obvious reasons, the authority does not elaborate or discuss the procedures and security checks with the media.”

A former security checker, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that they had not been required to pass any animals through the X-ray machines. Occasionally, the animal crates would be screened, but never the live animal.

According to the NRG Web site, two cases have already surfaced at Ben-Gurion Airport. One American tourist was required to put her cat through the X-ray. She initially refused, but after being told she would be barred from the flight if she did not oblige, she changed her mind. The cat was scanned, and cleared of all suspicion, and both were allowed to continue on their way.

In another incident, a passenger who refused to allow his two cats to be scanned was reportedly not allowed to fly.

Eytan Kreiner, founder and CEO of Maccabim, Israel-based Terminal4Pets, said that over 4 million pets were flown across the world in 2009. Kreiner, who is also a board member of IVETAA, the International Vet Transportation Association for Animals, said that they have taken up the issue of X-rays for animals at airports. “We are trying to get the radiation exposure in X-ray machines lowered so animals are not harmed,” Kreiner said.

He said their goal was to make sure the flying animals have micro chips imbedded inside them for identification as well as proper vaccinations for safety. This, he said, would lower the risk of animals being used for terrorism.

“This isn’t so new. Animals have to be screened like everyone else. It seems that Israeli security officials want to publicize this now, to deter someone from trying it,” Kreiner said.

Screening a cat could be a recipe for disaster. “This is much more difficult when it comes to cats. They aren’t like dogs which you can take out of their crates and put on a leash,” Kreiner said.

The procedures were reportedly revamped following the attempted assassination of a Saudi prince eight months ago. The al-Qaida terrorist had hidden in his rectum a bomb rigged to be detonated from a mobile phone. The assassin reportedly flew on two international flights and passed through other stringent security checks without the bomb in his belly being detected.

The assassin detonated himself, but the prince, who was a senior official combating terror, survived with only light injuries.

Palestinian militants have used live animals to carry bombs on several occasions:

  • In 2003 a donkey rigged with explosives and metal rods on its back was detonated as a passenger bus passed on the road from Jerusalem to Gush Etzion. No one was injured in that attack.
  • In 2001 a Palestinian drove a donkey cart laden with explosives toward a group of Israeli soldiers in the Gaza Strip. At the last minute he jumped off the cart and detonated the bombs that exploded only partially.
  • In January 2001 Palestinians left a donkey cart laden with explosives unattended near a junction in the Gaza Strip. Israeli soldiers fired at the cart, detonating the large amount of explosives and killing the donkey.
  • In June 1995 a Palestinian suicide bomber detonated a donkey-led cart rigged with explosives near an Israeli army base in the Gaza Strip. No soldiers were wounded in the blast, but the Palestinian and the donkey were killed.