TSA spokesperson Lisa Farbstein thought she’d seen it all. Then a passenger at the Tampa International Airport tried to go through security with a four-foot snake. On January 6, Farbstein posted a photo of the X-ray scan on the TSA-sanctioned Twitter feed she hosts, a public service forum designed to inform passengers of what they should and shouldn’t bring on flights. Her admonition for would-be air travelers? Don’t bring a boa constrictor.
The photo shows a typical carry-on X-ray—a laptop, a pair of shoes, and some jewelry, among other items. But, in the upper right corner, there’s a thick orange figure eight. The unusual scan prompted the attending TSA agent to pull the passenger out of line and take a closer look—and the live reptile was unveiled.
Snake on a plane? This is a @TSA X-ray of Bartholomew, a boa constrictor who was in a traveler’s carry-on bag at @FlyTPA last month. Woman claimed the snake was her emotional support pet. TSA notified the airline, which ruled that there was not going to be a snake on their plane! pic.twitter.com/kSg6YeRluU— Lisa Farbstein, TSA Spokesperson (@TSA_Northeast) January 6, 2023
“Snake on a plane? This is a TSA X-ray of Bartholomew, a boa constrictor who was in a traveler’s carry-on bag at FlyTPA last month,” wrote Farbstein in her Twitter post. “[The] woman claimed the snake was her emotional support pet. TSA notified the airline, which ruled that there was not going to be a snake on their plane!”
The U.S. Department of Transportation categorizes emotional support animals as pets. Therefore, they’re subject to the same transport rules as regular pets, which vary from airline to airline. Where pets are allowed, the TSA recommends that—in lieu of putting them through the X-ray machine—they be put in a carrier and held in the passenger’s arms. While snakes are not typically allowed as a carry-on, some airlines permit them in checked bags if secured correctly.
Other items confiscated by the TSA and featured on Farbstein’s Twitter feed include a machete, a slingshot, fentanyl in a Skittles bag, bullets in a cough drop pouch, and a variety of knives and firearms. Farbstein also works with other TSA spokespeople around the country to produce a yearly “Top Ten Catches” video that features the year’s most outlandish attempts to smuggle prohibited items. In recent years, these have ranged from dead sea horses in a brandy bottle and a movie prop corpse to meth wrapped in a burrito and a chainsaw.