When it comes to traveling with dogs the only true options in the United States are driving yourself or flying. The nation’s main bus line Greyhound does not allow dogs, even small ones. Nor does Amtrak, the government subsidized and controlled passenger train lines. For a trip with a dog from Washington D.C. to New York City a person today must, for all practical purposes, drive. This uses a lot of gas, costs much more, hurts the environment and adds traffic on the highways and, on arrival in New York, adds to city congestion. Why? Because Amtrak, which is paid for mostly by tax money, has said so. It would be so much simpler to hop on the train at Union Station, spend three hours on a train, and disembark at Penn Station. In Europe, dogs are allowed on most trains, you can buy them a ticket and bring them with a leash onto the train with you. At the stations, you can take the dog out while the train is stopped. Dogs are in carriers or they are on leashes. The traveler chooses. Small dogs and larger dogs are allowed. You can cross Europe on the train with your dog. The time is now for Amtrak to step up to the plate, designate a car for dogs and allow dogs on the train.
Unfortunately, it seems that it will take an act of Congress to force Amtrak to allow dogs. Fortunately, at least four congressmen are willing to introduce a bill to do just that. Led by Jeff Denham of California they have proposed a bill that would require Amtrak to allow dogs.
The bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Jeff Denham from California, told the Hill newspaper that relaxing the pet ban would help Amtrak raise revenue, but that the issue was also personal for him.
Said Mr. Denham: “My dog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us to and from California all the time. If I can take her on a plane, why can’t I travel with her on Amtrak, too?” he said.
It’s not only the Europeans that allow dogs on trains. This is not an untested idea. The Boston Subway has allowed leashed dogs for years. As have the Boston Commuter Trains, the Metro North Line from Grand Central Station in New York, the Seattle Commuter trains, MUNI in San Francisco and Toronto’s subways. And dogs are allowed on many ferries as well. And on most of these systems pets are not restricted to one car or to kennels.
The current bill, as proposed, would restrict pets to one car. The dogs and cats would need to remain in a kennel and the total trip could not be longer than 750 miles. There would be a fee for each dog or cat. While we would like to see more access, such as leashed dogs with a requirement that a muzzle be available if need be, we will be happy with any starting plan that allows both smaller and larger dogs on Amtrak. We as people who travel with pets should support this effort. Traveling with your dog may get simpler.