Amtrak is a passenger railroad service in the US and Canada that provides journeys of all distances around the two countries. Just recently, small, well-behaved pets were allowed on Amtrak, as long as they are no larger than 20 pounds. Additionally, pets are only allowed on trips that are no more than 7 hours long.
Service animals are allowed in all areas of Amtrak trains that passengers are allowed to go, which is rare for travel businesses. For example, airlines do not allow pets on every part of the plane, nor do most cruises allow pets to roam freely around the ship.
However, on Amtrak, pet owners have a lot more freedom now. This provides full support for service dog owners. The Amtrak staff may ask what tasks the service animal performs, however they do not follow the restrictions that pets have to follow when on the train.
Service animals are animals that have been trained to assist with and perform specific tasks to help someone who has a disability. This includes physical, sensory, intellectual or mental disability. In the US, only dogs (and sometimes horses) are considered service animals.
New Amtrak Policy
As of July of 2018, Amtrak announced that cats and dogs would be allowed to ride on Amtrak trains. Naturally, there are plenty of regulations and limitations in place, both on the animals and the owners. For example, as stated previously, Amtrak only allows “small” animals — 20 pounds or less — on their trains. Additionally, not every kind of pet is allowed; you can bring a dog or a cat, but you can’t bring an emotional support hamster or a service horse on the train with you.
Pet owners will need to pay a surcharge of $25 to add their pets to their trip, and they will need to alert Amtrak of their additional passenger when they book their tickets. It is best to book your tickets well in advance so that you can ensure there is enough room on the train for you and your pet. Only 5 pets are allowed per train, and the spots can fill up quickly in some cases.
You will also need to plan your journey out carefully, as not all Amtrak trips will allow pets. For example, if you need to take a 12-hour train ride across the country, you will not be allowed to bring a pet with you. This policy is primarily in place for the sake of the animal, as some pets can become agitated in enclosed spaces, and may need to go to the bathroom frequently.
Finally, all pet owners are required to bring a pet carrier and leash with them. While it is not a requirement, it is also recommended that you bring any toys or blankets that will help keep your animal calm. A poorly trained animal may be forced to leave the train if it cannot remain calm for the duration of the trip.
Service Animals Vs. Regular Pets On Amtrak
On Amtrak trains, they allow service animals that have been trained to perform specific tasks for the person with a disability. Amtrak has stated that comfort animals, search and rescue dogs, and police dogs are not classified as service dogs and are therefore technically considered pets. They are allowed on Amtrak trains, but as pets, not service dogs, and must follow the carry-on pet guidelines to be able to travel.
That said, there are still some guidelines to follow for having a service animal on board an Amtrak train. These are similar if not the same as most public places and service animals are trained to comply with these kinds of policies.
First, service animals should be under control at all times. The animal should always be on a leash or harness unless this is not possible due to the owner’s disability (in an extreme case). If a service animal is not under control, an Amtrak employee can ask for the service animal to be removed from the train or station. They can be classed as being out of control if they are causing disruption, barking loudly, or causing a threat to others.
Pet, Service Animal, or Emotional Support Animal — What Are the Differences?
Obviously, everyone knows that a pet is simply an animal that you or your family owns for companionship. They are not used to treat any particular condition, and you did not need to get special permission from your doctor to obtain them. They are simply an animal that lives with you and provides you with love and company.
That said, it is important to note the differences between service animals, emotional support animals, and even therapy animals. Service animals (typically dogs) have been trained to perform specific tasks that a person is incapable of performing on their own. For this reason, service animals are allowed in public spaces where other animals (possibly including emotional support animals) may not be allowed to go.
Alternatively, emotional support animals are not trained in specific tasks, nor are there as many limitations on the types of animals that qualify; dogs, cats, birds, and even miniature horses can qualify as emotional support animals. In the United States, the Fair Housing Act covers the legal definitions of emotional support animals. This law helps protect emotional support animals and their owners when attempting to rent a living space. So, if you or someone close to you suffers from asthma, but the condition is not considered to be severe, an emotional support animal may be the best option for you.
Those dealing with asthma also have the option of seeking treatment with a therapy dog, but this is a little more complicated, as therapy animals are often used exclusively in treatment facilities. To put it simply, a therapy dog is any dog that meets certain criteria required to provide psychological and emotional support to an individual. However, by this definition, most dogs would probably qualify. Many people adopt dogs for this very purpose: to provide emotional support and companionship. In reality, therapy dogs are used for specific intervention treatments for those suffering any kind of mental pain or debilitation.
Therapy dogs can be used for a variety of circumstances. For example, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers, and hospice care facilities often use therapy dogs to combat loneliness and depression among the residents. When children (or adults) suffer the loss of a close family member, therapy dogs are a great way to encourage healing and help the individual cope with emotional trauma.
It is important to note that there are different kinds of therapy dogs that all serve different purposes. Generally, therapy dogs can be divided into three categories:
- Therapeutic Visitation Dogs – This is the most common type of therapy dog. These pets and their owners visit hospitals, mental health facilities, and other healthcare centers to prevent patients from feeling lonely, disconnected, or hopeless.
- Animal Assisted Therapy Dog – This type of therapy dog is generally reserved for rehabilitation clinics. Under the guidance of a trained physiotherapist, these dogs help patients regain mobility through various motor-control activities.
- Facility Therapy Dog – These dogs are often used exclusively in elderly care facilities to alert staff of any issues with the patients. They also provide companionship to the residents, many of whom do not have any living friends or relatives outside of the facility.
Rules for Service Animals On Amtrak
Service animals must remain on the floor at all times. They will be trained to do this anyway, but it is important that when on board an Amtrak train, the animal does not sit on the seats, beds, or in the aisles. This can cause a disruption of regular train activity, and can potentially cause an injury to the animal or another passenger. A service animal should sit by the passenger’s feet or under the passenger’s seat for the entirety of the trip.
If a service animal and its owner are taking a long journey, there will likely be at least one stop at a train station. During these breaks, the service animal and its owner are permitted to go for a walk outside. This is to allow the dog to relieve themselves, and avoid any potential accidents or health code violations on the train.
However, it is important that the owner makes sure they have enough time to return to the train. It is advised to notify the conductor and stay in close proximity to the train so that reboarding can be quick and painless. Many routes do not stop for the duration of the trip, so it is important to check before making travel plans. Even service animals can only avoid having an accident for so long, and you do not want your animal to be in discomfort for hours on end.
Reservations can be made for customers who are planning to travel with a service dog. When making a reservation, Amtrak will reserve an accessible seat and space for the passenger and service animal. Information will be given about intermediate stops, seating, and train arrangements.