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Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 10:18 pm
by Philsuma
The following is my personal experience and opinion(s) only. It is not intended to be legal or procedure advice but simply an account of how I handled my issue of “flying with frogs”.


NO MEMBER OF TSA IS AN EMPLOYEE OF AN AIRLINE, AND IS NOT THERE TO REPRESENT
THE AIRLINES IN ANY WAY. THEY ARE THERE TO ENSURE THE SAFETY OF THE PASSENGERS ON THE AIRLINES OF THE UNITED STATES, AND FLIGHTS ORIGINATING OR ARRIVING TO AN AIRPORT IN THE UNITED STATES.

CONVERSELY, THE RULES OF THE AIRLINES ARE THE BUSINESS OF THE AIRLINES, NOT TSA.

The airlines will not be looking in your bag, as long as it is within size limits and not suspicious looking and TSA could care less about the frogs, and would be more interested in looking at them than anything else.

TSA procedure regarding frogs and all other live animals (snakes and iguanas come through on a daily basis) is to have the animal bag hand-checked. They will not let live animals go through the x-ray machine, and have absolutely no problem examining them. When reaching the checkpoint, I simply tell a TSA guard that I have live animals and need the bag hand-checked privately. They need to see each animal to check for stitches – believe it or not, and it would hasten the process by having the frogs in clear cups. They also swabbed the moistened paper towels in the bottom of the clear cups and I can only assume that this is to check for liquid explosive even though the quantity of liquid is obviously minute. Granted, your particular airline may not "allow" frogs as carry-on items (as a money making scheme), but as long as you are in compliance with federal guidelines, and you are not advertising the frogs on the plane, there should be no problem with TSA – which is separate and different from the airlines.

On a side note, there is no way I would send my frogs through checked baggage stored underneath the aircraft. From what I have seen, most baggage handlers have no regard for people's belongings, let alone frozen or damaged by the cargo compartment. Get to the airport early, and have a backup plan to ship them, just in case.

On the subject of live things going through the X-Ray machines, NOTHING alive should be allowed to go through the X-Ray machine; If you have something that is alive, you simply request a "Hand Check" by a member of the TSA, and they will pull you aside, and hand check the item, after determining that the item in question will indeed be damaged or killed by the X-Ray machine.

I was concerned as this was the first time I was asking for a "hand check" of my frogs. I
made sure I got there early. (I was the first person through at 5:30 am, no one else was around!)

I requested a hand check. The TSA guy had me take my cooler to a table, unload the frogs and then ran the cooler (sans frogs) through the x-ray machine. He checked all the frog cups (clear plastic).

The TSA officer was amazed by the frogs and called everyone else over to look at them.They all made a big fuss over them and admired them. My only concern was that an airline employee might walk through at the time. The security people were all very nice. After the hand check, they helped me repack them in the cooler and sent me on my way.

However, I always have a backup plan. I had checked and found out another Airline does ship animals just in case. Another good back up plan would be to have a fellow hobbyist that is local to the city you are flying out of, to be on stand-by alert, should TSA or the airline refuse to accommodate your frogs.

I Simply approach the TSA officers at the security gate, and tell them that "I was told to request a hand check of my carry-on luggage”. I explain that I am taking frogs (Identify them as “Tropical Frogs”) to a trade show or home from a trade show, as the case may be. You may well be the most popular guy at the gate at that time, and all they should do is look, and send you on your way. I have done it a few times, and had no problems.

Have all the animals in small CLEAR plastic containers – deli cups are best, with some moist, not dripping, plain white paper towels only. Make sure that the inspectors can see all around and into the entire cup so that nothing appears hidden or hard to see. You must secure the cup lids, use clear tape for this as well. The tape can be over the whole lid top and not around the lip, that way the tape can easily be pulled off and reattached afterwards, if need be.

Finally, I label the interior, clear cup containers: “TROPICAL FROGS”, with a black sharpie and not a paper tag which would obscure the ability of the screener to see inside the cup. That particular verbiage will go a long way towards helping out and putting everyone’s mind at ease. I never say "Poison Dart Frogs, Poison Arrow Frogs or even Dart Frogs".

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 11:16 pm
by Michael Lawrence
Absolutely the ''harmless tropical frogs'' but Id suggest the Latin name be on there as well. I have been held as a few idiots actually thought I was stupid enough to try and illegally transport an endangered or protected species. So them being able to quickly positively ID the frogs helps if they hold them to be checked out by authorities, Other than that Ive never had an issue.

And never tell them Poison Dart or Poison Arrow Frogs. I made that mistake once too.

Michael

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 11:59 pm
by Mer_
I just want to make sure. Is there the possibility that the TSA officers will touch the frogs to check them? I would not want that to happen.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 8:49 am
by Philsuma
I guess anything could happen, but I would not think they would try to open the containers - which you will have taped shut with clear tape.

Personally, I've had them (TSA) put on their blue rubber gloves to inspect the container and the individual cups but never ask to open them.

At the point in which anyone would begin to try or ask, I would tell them the frog is 100% going to get out and literally die on the airport rug and they will be responsible for that. Something to that effect.

Be prepared for any possibility though and as stated above....have a back-up plan for everything too.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 1:08 am
by eos
Great tip(s) for the next Frog Day. Thanks, Phil.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 7:34 am
by Natures Gems
this is great thorough and helpful info. i hadn't thought about flying with any frogs but this info would really help should i ever decide to. thanks a lot for the tips it would be much easier if the occasion arises. thanks also for the correct lingo suggestions, i can definitley see the TSA having a red flag pop up with incorrect word usage.
very helpful, thanks again.

tom

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:19 am
by Philsuma
Again...this issue is FAR from an exact science. TSA can always do some goofy stuff and change things up. Remember, it's their world (while you re standing there in front of the x-ray) so be nice. Theres always the possibility that you will encounter a very grumpy human employee that had a horrible day and wants to take it out on you and your 'weird" animals.

"Have a backup plan" is probably the best take away from this thread.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 11:41 am
by eos
I've always got a backup plan... but in any event, talking polite and mannerful to a TSA employee can work wonders :)

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:15 pm
by Philsuma
"They are just biological samples - harmless"

Image

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:38 pm
by EntoCraig
Great post. Very helpful for transporting frogs in ANY situation if you ask me. Trains, plains, subways, across state lines, etc etc. Obviously you would look up specific rules, or even call to make sure it is OK in any event, but the process still applies.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 12:53 pm
by guppygal
Great info, Phil. I've always wondered about bringing live critters aboard an airplane. When you say 'clear containers', is it safe to say that they are moss-free?

I'm also curious if anybody has had any difficulties with any particular airline ~

kristi

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Thu Oct 13, 2011 2:46 pm
by Philsuma
Yeah...ya wanna be as CLEAR as possible - no plants, no moss. Nothing to obscure the view or give them any reason to think that there is something hidden or that they can't identify. Try for a little as possible except the frog in the clear cup. I would also choose plain white paper towel, moistened over sphagnum for the same reason - so the TSA people can see everything. Spag looks a little "weird" sometimes.

And then, for evey "handchecked" instance, there is a hobbyist who just keeps the containers in the carry-on luggage and lets it go right thru the x-ray machine, undeclared. I doubt the tiny skeletons show up on even the strongest machines.

As with 98.7% of anything related to this hobby - it's ultimately a matter of personal preference. I can't say that's right or wrong. I just want to archive the info here and add my personal experiences and opinion.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Wed Apr 18, 2012 10:39 pm
by Philsuma
Flying with frogs to, or from, Frogday ?

Easily done !

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:45 pm
by Philsuma
I'm tired of the m'f'er frogs on this m'f'er plane.

but seriously, I've had a couple lil ole' ladies ask me 'what's in the Styrofoam box" , knowing full well that it WAS some kind of animal. They were relieved when I didn't say 'snakes' but I sure as heck wasn't gonna say 'poison dart frogs'.

Say it with me....HARMLESS....TROPICAL....FROGS.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Mon Feb 24, 2014 12:44 pm
by Philsuma
Frog Day 2013 coming up. Do not be afraid to fly with frogs people. Just keep calm and frog on...

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 10:40 pm
by Armson
Philsuma wrote:Frog Day 2013 coming up. Do not be afraid to fly with frogs people. Just keep calm and frog on...


If you are going back to 2013 frog day could you please pick up a few things I forgot to get. Oh and there are few power ball numbers I want you to play for me too. Also I am going to need you to place a bet for me on the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl.

-Byron

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Wed Feb 26, 2014 10:51 pm
by Philsuma
And here I thought you were just droning along /not paying attention....McFly.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Wed Oct 21, 2015 4:57 pm
by gladiatorsgi
I will add here.

I flew from Chicago to Austin last weekend. Had my frogs in plastic deli cups, labeled "Harmless Tropical Frogs" inside a small soft cooler. Requested from TSA security agents for a manual check. No problem. TSA had a laugh as they were afraid to open the cooler. I was the cool guy for about 5 min. :)

Steve

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Sat Feb 06, 2016 5:33 pm
by Philsuma
Has anyone had the OUTSIDE of the cups containing frogs swabbed for 'explosive agents' ? I dunno if I reported it, but I have had them take a small 'handi-wipe' looking cloth and wipe the bottom of the OUTSIDE of the deli cup and take that to a machine, presumably for testing for an 'explosive agent'. Kinda neat actually. Thorough is ok with me. Frogs board the plane. No worries.

Re: Flying with frogs as Carry-on Luggage

Posted: Sat Mar 05, 2016 5:21 pm
by Lanthia
I had this happen to me and my insulin pump last Nov. when I flew. They had me handle my pump then they wiped my hands for explosive agents. Good thing they can't wipe my temper. ha ha Actually I have mellowed in my old age.

I am glad to hear you can carry on frogs.