Traveling with a pet can be a challenge when you need to use public transport sometimes. You and your furry friend might have a hard time finding accommodation and sometimes you need to pay a fee to travel with your pet. You should consider what is recognized as “a pet” by the transport service you are going to use on your travel. Airlines are typically more accommodating than all other transport lines and you can even carry an exotic pet like a snake or a chinchilla on board. Buses are sometimes very restrictive and you can usually have a cat, a dog, or maybe a rabbit accompany you. Trains on the other hand are very specific in their definition of a pet.
You can have a dog or a Cat with you on most Amtrak carriages. Train passengers can find the full extent of the pet policy for Amtrak here. We will try to help you attain a good understanding of the pet policy quickly. You will have to take into consideration that Amtrak recognizes as pets only cats and dogs. Sadly, the company does not offer onboard accommodation for other animals. Emotional Support Animals (ESA) that are not dogs or cats cannot ride on the Amtrak carriages and they have no rights guaranteed by the law.
Service Dogs are another thing entirely. Service Dogs are considered companions to their handlers and ride for free on any Amtrak carriage. Service Dog handlers may be charged a fee if their dog takes up a seat. Otherwise, it is expected to lie next to their handler and the conductors are obliged to ensure the comfort of the service dog and its handler.
Dogs and cats up to 20 pounds (combined weight of pet and carrier) are allowed for a trip that takes up to 7 hours (including time between train transfers) on most routes. There is a caveat – no more than 5 pets per train are allowed. If there are other people on the same train with a pet you might need to book another train. In addition, only one pet is allowed per customer. Pets are permitted into Coach Class and Acela Business Class, you are not allowed to enter food service cars with your pet and bedroom accommodations.
No matter how long the trip you have to take — the pet should be in a suitable carrier at all times and under adult supervision (minors are not allowed with pets onboard). The pet carrier can be hard or soft-sided but must be leakproof and well ventilated. As mentioned above the pet and the carrier combined should not weigh more than 20 pounds. The maximum dimensions for pet carriers allowed on Amtrak are 19" long x 14" wide x 10.5" high. Your pet carrier counts as one piece of carry-on baggage.
While you are on board, the pet carrier is supposed to be under your seat (not under the seat in front of you), except on Amtrak Cascades trains where you can put your pet carrier on the floor in front of the seat next to you.
You will need to fill out a form whenever you bring a dog or a cat with you on Amtrak. Customers are requested to fill out a pet release form at least 30 minutes before departure at staffed stations. Whenever you have to use an unstaffed station, bring your pet on board in a carrier and the conductor will confirm pet eligibility and provide you with the document to sign.
Your pet must be at least eight weeks old to be considered eligible for travel with Amtrak. The pets are expected to be well behaved, emit no pungent odors, remain calm, and avoid disrupting the comfort for you and the other customers. Please, keep in mind that animals that do not have up-to-date vaccinations will not be permitted onboard. Amtrak does not accept liability for the health and well-being of pets. You should pay close attention to the comfort and health of your pet dutifully.
You can refer to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that guarantees the unobstructed access of service dogs and their handlers on all Amtrak fares. ADA recognizes service animals as Service Dogs only. Amtrak has extended pet regulations available here. Amtrak urges passengers that rely on a service dog to have the animal on a leash, harness, or another tether, unless this is not possible due to a disability or if the leash or other tether would interfere with the service animal's safe, effective performance of work or tasks. The conductors can request service animals to be removed from the train when they are disruptive, aggressive, and pose a risk to the health and safety of the other passengers and Amtrak employees. Service Dogs can travel with their handlers for more than seven hours on any Amtrak line as they are not considered pets and perform assistive work.
If you're traveling with a service animal, visit Amtrak.com, call their support phone line, or talk to a local representative for more information. Have a safe trip and make sure to be aware of the terms of service so you have an enjoyable ride!