Cheers and Jeers

Cheers and Jeers

We have a cheer today for Amtrak and the news that the train line has been developing a program to include pets on trips. A year ago, the White House and House of Representatives passed a bill to continue government funding for Amtrak. It also required the train line become pet friendly!

For sure, Amtrak must be pleased with nearly $500,000 in revenue from the 4,600 passengers who traveled with their pets between October and March. But perhaps even more encouraging than the numbers is the fact that Amtrak didn’t receive any negative feedback during the pilot from customers who shared cars with a furry passenger. (Amtrak limits the number of animals to one per passenger and five per car; the quiet and cafe cars remain pet-free.)

Before these pet programs began, only service dogs were permitted on Amtrak trains, while pets have been allowed on many commercial flights for decades, and regional trains have historically been more welcoming to the four-legged set. Amtrak did allow cats and dogs in the 1970s, but the service ran into problems with poor climate control in the baggage cars, where the animals rode, leading to some fatalities. Today, the pets ride with their families, in a soft carrier under the seat.

Tips for traveling with pets on trains

• Advance reservations are required for pet travel. To reserve a spot, call 800-USA-RAIL. The surcharge is $25, and pets are permitted to travel for stretches up to seven hours.

• Your cat or dog must be 20 pounds or less and needs to travel in a soft carrier that will fit under the seat.

• If your pet’s not used to travel, introduce the carrier at home with treats and toys. Practice carrier travel for short drives in the car so the pet is more relaxed when it’s time to hit the rails.

• When you check in at Amtrak, you will be asked to sign a waiver agreeing that your pet is healthy and non-aggressive.