Mutterings: Pets on a Train

Pets are allowed on most airlines, in rental cars, but if you want to choo-choo with your Chow-Chow, you’re out of luck.

Photo from JourneyGirl.coAmtrak’s pet policy strictly forbids all companion animals, including:

  • Comfort Animals: Animals not trained to perform a specific task, but which are said to provide emotional support or to relieve anxiety simply by their presence (for example, by the passenger holding or stroking the animal).
  • Pets: Animals for which no claim of any service is made.
  • Search and Rescue Dogs:* Animals that are trained generally, but not to assist a particular passenger.
  • Police Dogs:* Other than dogs brought on trains by the Amtrak Police Department.

Amtrak does allow service animals “trained to perform a specific task for the benefit of a person with a disability.”

What is it about the train that makes it so animal un-friendly? For dogs, the train makes plenty of potty stops (now called “smoking stops”), so it can’t be a fear of special “presents” being left in the aisles. I would hope that most dog owners were conscientious enough to make sure their dog behaves properly in public.

I love trains. The whole “train experience” is relaxing, far more than the stress of getting on an airplane. You don’t have to take off your shoes before boarding, you aren’t shoved into an aisle like a sardine, you can you walk around, check out the bar car, have a few snacks, watch a movie (or six), and in a few hours (or days), you’re at your destination, rested and ready to work or play. I’d love to be able to take my dogs with me on Amtrak.

Enter the “Pets on Train Act of 2013, H.R. 2066,” sponsored by member of Congress Jeff Denham of California (R), District 10. The bill is co-sponsored by Representative Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee (D). If there’s one thing that can cross party lines, it’s dogs.

“My dog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us to and from California all the time. If I can take her on a plane, why can’t I travel with her on Amtrak, too?” said Denham. “Allowing families to bring their animals with them will facilitate transportation and efficiency while also providing a much-needed source of revenue for Amtrak.”

This is the best idea the government has come up with since sliced bread… did the government invent sliced bread? No matter. It’s a wonderful bill for a variety of reasons, the least of which is that people will have an economical way to transport their pets. But what really tickles me about the bill is that rescuers will now have an economical way to transport rescue animals. Thinking about this literally makes me giddy.

“Those of us lucky enough to have pets are greatly blessed with their companionship,” said Congressman Cohen. “When travelling on Amtrak, families should be able to bring their pets along. Our bill would establish a pet policy on Amtrak trains so pets—which are a part of the family—won’t be left at home to fend for themselves.”

I truly hope this bill passes, though I wish it was more inclusive—currently, it accounts for small dogs and cats that can be kept in a carrier and placed at your feet, the way you would on a plane, in accordance with Amtrak’s carry-on policy (in other words, you’re not going to be able to take your Great Dane’s kennel as your carry on). Pets can only travel for distances less than 750 miles. Larger pets can ride in cargo for a distance of 750 miles or less, but I’d wait to see how Amtrak deals with temperature-control in the pet cargo car before I’d do that.

Despite the restrictions, it’s a fantastic start. There will be a rally to support the bill on October 2nd, 2013, in front of Union Station in Washington DC, which will include Mike Canning, CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Counsel, along with members of Congress.

If you’d like to support pets on trains, you can sign this petition here.

You can also like the Pets On Trains Facebook page.

To view the text for the entire bill, click here.

What do you think about pets on trains? Would you take advantage of this new way to travel with your best furry friend?


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