Should pets be allowed to travel on trains? Rep. Jeff Denham poses with Lily, his 15-pound French bulldog in his office on Capitol Hill in Washington (AP photos)
Should pets be allowed to travel on trains?
Lexile

She is a 15-pound snowball of a French bulldog. The pooch has the face of a tough guy and the personality of a princess.

Her owner is U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California. They take the occasional coast-to-coast plane ride together. But when he tried to take her on Amtrak a couple years back, he learned that only service dogs were allowed aboard. It's a policy he's been trying to change. And he appears to be gaining momentum.

Denham is a Republican who chairs a House subcommittee. It oversees the agencies that regulate the nation's railroad industry. Denham believes allowing people to bring small dogs and cats with them in pet carriers would encourage more people to travel by train. It might also bring much needed revenue. Amtrak is a business that relies on taxpayer support to survive.

So far, Denham has succeeded in persuading Amtrak to conduct a test run for pets in Illinois. About 145 passengers took advantage of the new service along two routes last year. Participation gradually increased each month.

Now, Denham wants to expand the service nationally. He has filed a bill that would require Amtrak to come up with a pet policy for passengers traveling less than 750 miles.

Amtrak could change the policy on its own. Officials have made clear they support the concept. But they're also still in the monitoring phase. For example, one of the questions that will have to be resolved is the limit on distance that passengers with pets can travel. After all, dogs and cats need potty breaks too.

"We're going at this carefully, because there are people who very much want this. And there are people who are concerned about how it could affect them," said Marc Magliari, a spokesman for Amtrak.

In Illinois, those wishing to take pets must make advanced reservations and pay a $25 surcharge. Only animals weighing 20 pounds or less can board. They must be in their carriers at all times. The pets and their owners also are relegated to a particular train car. Customers have to arrive at least 30 minutes before departure so they can sign a release agreement. Amtrak reserves the right to remove from the train any pet that smells bad or is disruptive.

"The experiment has gone well. The lack of any negative feedback from customers or crewmembers is heartening," Magliari said.

At one point, Amtrak did allow small pets on its trains. But the animals were going into dated baggage cars with poor ventilation and poor protection from the elements. The practice was halted in the 1970s.

Various lobbying groups affiliated with pet owners and pet businesses are also weighing in.

"Millions of American families have beloved pets, and allowing them to travel by train will support the human-animal bond," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States.

At Union Station in Washington, which is Amtrak's second-busiest hub, Tracy and Samm McMillan of Fairfield, Connecticut, said they would definitely take their cockapoo, Bailey, on trips with them if they could.

"We miss her. It's tough. We work. We're gone during the week, and on the weekend, we don't necessarily like leaving her, so to be able to bring her would be awesome," Samm McMillan said.

Diane Mileson of New York City agreed. She said her family only goes to restaurants that will also allow her rescue dog, Bode, to come along.

"We would have brought him today for sure," Mileson said.

Critical thinking challenge: Pet owners will benefit if they are allowed to bring their pets on trains. But how would Amtrak benefit?

Assigned 122 times


COMMENTS (150)
  • Dalton1319
    2/24/2015 - 01:26 p.m.

    I think that all pets should not be allowed to travel on a train because it is public transportation, and bringing your pet on board could affect other people. Pets can be very noisy and they can also smell and make a mess. There are many other ways that you can travel with your pet to get to a place you need to go. As much as I like pets I don't not think letting them travel on trains is a good idea.

  • kcs4802
    2/24/2015 - 01:37 p.m.

    If I were the head of Amtrak, I would allow lap pets being able to take the train on their owners side just like some people would do on an airplane. Since this is our representative, I would vote yes on this bill to change Amtraks pet policy. People should have the same rights with their pets on trains as on airplanes. I find it unfair that only service dogs are allowed on the Amtrak trains. All lap pets should be able to ride the train with their owners.

  • Slater01
    2/24/2015 - 01:41 p.m.

    I think Jeff Denham was right to want this. Even though some dogs might be a little aggressive or pee, but that is covered because they must be in their carriers and Amtrak is allowed to take dogs off the train at any time. I think dogs should be allowed to go on trains as long as they are not a disturbance.

  • Slater01
    2/24/2015 - 01:41 p.m.

    I think Jeff Denham was right to want this. Even though some dogs might be a little aggressive or pee, but that is covered because they must be in their carriers and Amtrak is allowed to take dogs off the train at any time. I think dogs should be allowed to go on trains as long as they are not a disturbance.

  • Shawn_
    2/24/2015 - 02:35 p.m.

    I don't think that pets should be allowed to go on trains because if they go to the bathroom on the train then it might slide around and get smeared. Also, if the dog bites someone then the doctors can't get to the train and if the dog starts biting everyone, then it would be very frightening because everyone is in an enclosed area.

  • ArielleL.509
    2/24/2015 - 02:44 p.m.

    The article, "Should Pets be Allowed to Travel on Trains?" by Kevin Freking. Is an article based off a 15 pound snowball of a French bulldog that travels with his owner, Jeff Denham, on a regular bases via plane. But, when they needed to travel by bus they found out that you are not allowed to bring a dog on a bus were not allowed on. As of now, Denham has persuaded Amtrak to have a test run for pets in Illinois. I think allowing dogs on busses are a good idea if there is also restraints. Such as, weight, and calmness of the dog as well as barking which could be annoying for other bus riders if a dog is non stop barking during the ride.

  • trenta-Eic
    2/24/2015 - 03:07 p.m.

    I think pets should be aloud on trains think about the blind and there dogs they need there dogs to move and help them find there way around. I think they should be aloud.....

  • tristanp-Eic
    2/24/2015 - 03:08 p.m.

    I love dogs and cats so I say yes. but people that don't like cats or dog very much or have allergies to them wouldn't want them on the train.

  • spencerm-Eic
    2/24/2015 - 03:08 p.m.

    My opinion is that pets should be able especially injured pets because they are helpless animals that are probable going home to there family especially in big city's!!!

  • LaurenCC-Kra
    2/24/2015 - 04:00 p.m.

    i think that there can be two sides to the story. There's is lots of good reasons and not so good reasons. Two reasons i don't think pets should be allowed are because they could be mean and bite people or bite other dogs and fight with them. the second reason i don't think dogs should be allowed are some people are afraid of dogs.

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