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Amtrak to Welcome Dogs and Cats
Recent legislation mandates Amtrak to become pet friendly.
Rep. Jeff Denham with Lily, the inspiration for the pet friendly legislation.
Rep. Jeff Denham with Lily, the inspiration for the pet friendly legislation.
The White House and Republican-controlled House of Representatives don't agree on much these days, however, in a rare bipartisan vote, a bill was passed this week that will continue funding to Amtrak and make the train line pet friendly. While the White House didn't fully agree with the legislation, it's believed that support on both sides was won over by the pet-related part of the bill. Amtrak will now be mandated to create a pilot program that welcomes dogs and cats system wide.

The provision was included in the bill by California Representative Jeff Denham who has been advocating for pet friendly trains since he realized several years ago that he couldn't ride Amtrak with his French Bulldog, Lily.

The bill specifically directs Amtrak to figure out parameters of the program within one year of its passing, which will need to include a designated pet car on each train. Traveling animals will ride in a kennel and be subject to a to fee (amount to be determined).

For now, pet kennels must fit within Amtrak's carry-on luggage size limits, 28" x 22" x 14". That's bad news for big dogs, but it is larger than the standard in-cabin size for pets traveling by plane.

Hopefully it won't take long for Amtrak to finalize the parameters since they've already been running pet friendly trains in a pilot program on two lines in Illinois since last spring. 145 dogs and cats have ridden the train since the initiative began.

It's always great to see more pet friendly travel options, particularly alternatives to air travel. I hope to see the kennel size increased in the future to make Amtrak accessible to more dogs.

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JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by J. Scott Applewhite/AP.

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