Should pets be allowed to travel on trains?
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: 1060L

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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.

She and her owner, Rep. Jeff Denham of California, 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 ever since. 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 said 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 to a business that relies on taxpayer support to survive.

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

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.

Denham said his pet proposal could also find its way into legislation being considered this year that authorizes how much money the federal government provides Amtrak.

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.

But Congress weighing in reinforces that at least some of the folks paying much of Amtrak's tab wants a nationwide policy sooner rather than later.

"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 and they must be in their carriers at all times. The pets and their owners also are relegated to a particular train car and 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 after some pets died.

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?

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Assigned 6 times

  • BreeE-Bru
    2/27/2015 - 01:09 p.m.

    According to "Should pets be allowed to travel on trains?" Jeff Denham says allowing people to bring small dogs and cats with them in pet carriers would encourage more people to travel by train. This means people who want to bring there pets with them to places but have to ride the train aren't be able too, but if the Amtrak would allow pets then the people who don't ride because they can't bring their pets will ride now. I think that the trains should allow pets on with the restrictions that they have planned for because then they would earn more revenue. I believe this because in the text it says, " About 145 passengers took advantage of the new service along two routes last year," and it also says,"Participation gradually increased each month."

  • Steve0620-yyca
    6/23/2016 - 02:54 p.m.

    I think that Jeff Denham is helping many people by trying to let animals get on board trains. She was shocked to find that pets weren't allowed so she tried to change that. Her plan has been working so far. Many places are changing that because they have not seen many problems. Pets were allowed before but there have been some problems with the pets going into dated baggage cars with poor protections from elements and poor ventilation. Some pets started to die so it was stopped but it is going to go back to that again. There are regulations to the pets that can go to the train. They have to be 20 pounds or less and they have to be in carriers.
    Both pet owners and the Amtrak would benefit because the pet owners will be able to be with their pets while they ride on trains. The Amtrak trains will also benefit because more people will want to ride the trains.

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