Pets on Long Distance Trains

Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.
my condolences - such a sad tale,, and you wonder why I worry about non service animals? Perhaps I need to start a Keep Fifi and Fido at home campaign,,,,,,,
I would agree although in this case (assuming all the facts here are valid) the conductor did not do his/her job and remove the offending non service animal and report the incident to Amtrak.
I agree, and it sort of baffles me why they didn't take care of the situation, especially when it could have escalated to a potentially deadly situation.
Owners never recognize that THEIR dog is the problem. It took a county order, a hearing, and a threatened eviction to get the owner of a "rescue dog" in our condo complex to remove the dog permanently from the property after it pinned an elderly resident against the wall in a laundry room, jumped the neck of the resident manager, and bit a guest from another unit on the walkway.
That means I can bring my dog along on a trip from Seattle on Portland on the Coast Starlight... but not on the Cascades. Not sure how that makes sense.
Starting March 7th, that will no longer be an issue.

OLYMPIA – Beginning March 7, small dogs and cats can join their owners on Amtrak Cascades trains for their next adventure.
The policy appears to mirror the national policy with the notable addition that pets will not be allowed on trains to/from Canada. [Amtrak's other two services to Canada do not currently allow pets anywhere on the route, so this is the first time that border-crossing is relevant.]

The policy also repeats the 7-hour rule, even though [once you factor out Canadian portion] there is no Cascades train that is scheduled to take more than 7 hours from endpoint to endpoint. And since per Amtrak's policy, pets are not allowed on Thruway bus connections, the 7-hour limit is basically irrelevant unless you force a train-to-train connection in SEA or PDX. But the pet restriction would be easily and legally circumvented in that case by booking the two legs separately.
While booking 2 legs separately may get around the 7 hour rule, it may well result in a much higher fare. The pet fee would be paid twice, and the fares for the individual legs are usually greater than a single full trip.
While booking 2 legs separately may get around the 7 hour rule, it may well result in a much higher fare. The pet fee would be paid twice, and the fares for the individual legs are usually greater than a single full trip.
This former is definitely true, but the latter generally isn't the case on the Cascades.

At any rate, since there are no pet-eligible trains on the Cascades that are longer than 7 hours, it's largely irrelevant. The only time it would come into play is if someone was attempting to travel between a point north of Seattle and a point south of Portland. There are no trains that run all the way through from north of SEA to south of PDX. Typically this type of itinerary is accomplished with the help of a Thruway bus on either end. Since pets aren't allowed on Thruway buses, then taking your pet from, say, Bellingham to Eugene would require two train legs that would add up to more than 7 hours once you factor in the layover in either SEA or PDX. But ODOT and WSDOT's figures show that extremely few passengers travel between locations north of SEA and south of PDX. So splitting up the itinerary and thus incurring an additional pet fee would seem to affect a very, very small number of passengers. That's why I said the 7-hour rule is largely irrelevant on the Cascades.
Still wonder why my Great Dane cannot ride with me in a sleeper, even if he has a full fare ticket......; )
Last edited by a moderator:
My understanding is that the pet rule was instituted when a Congressman was miffed that he couldn't board an Amtrak train with his dog. Hence I conclude the following:

The Congressman never travels more than 7 hours on Amtrak, he always sits in coach, and his dog weighs under 20 pounds.

Any attempt to find logic or consistency in the rules is pointless.

My question: If there are only going to be 5 pets per train, why can't they put them all in the same car?
July 1st, I accepted a job along California's northern coast (gorgeous this time of year,) about 300 miles northwest of the impoverished Central Valley that my cat & I called home.
Next 24 hours, several Amtrak CSRs provided different answers on whether my cat could travel, why or why not. Finally, a floor manager issued my ticket, including the $25 fee, (I'd have bought the cat a seat,) and we looked forward to our July 4th trip.
Alas, a 2nd floor manager cancelled my ticket day of travel, explaining, "he never should have issued it, since part of the route is by bus." When asked why the that matters, she claimed, "it's just our policy."
This changed to, "station managers decide," then, "maybe it's conductors." She offered no help on who could verify any of this, or how to contact conductors directly. She gave a wrong # for the Martinez station after 10-minutes on hold, and took a half-hour to process my refund.
Six regional transit lines, plus a rideshare to fill a 60-mile gap got us to our new home.
I've since learned the Thruway busses she mentioned usually run twice daily, empty or near empty.
Amtrak happily pockets 1.5 B per year in subsidies, ignores the taxpayers who provide it, and also ignores the 2015 pet travel mandate.
l sincerely hope the next Congress cuts Amtrak funding completely.
Not entirely, since they are subject to many laws and rules such as the ADA. It was suggested that part of the reason for denying pet carriage was that part of the trip was on the bus. I don't see anything that suggests that Amtrak is violating what Congress required.
In case someone is interested, the actual Amtrak Pet Policy can be found here:

Since a Thruway Bus was involved clearly a Pet Ticket should not have been issued. This then goes back to our other pet peeve of Amtrak Agents not being well trained and playing fast and loose when they don't know the rules for sure.

Anyway, here are the restrictions beyond the 7 hour restriction copied verbatim from that page:
Acela on weekends and holidays only; travel with pets in Canada not available on Adirondack, Maple Leaf and Amtrak Cascades; not available on Auto Train, Keystone Service, Pennsylvanian, San Joaquins, Capitol Corridor Pacific Surfliner or Thruway Connecting Services.
Last edited:
Being the human part of a service dog team, I can make a few comments:

1. By federal law, no formal certified training by "recognized facilities" is needed for a service animal. It simply must be trained to perform a task for a person with disabilities that the person can't perform for himself. People sometimes do this with their own dogs. Most often, though, they indeed are professionally trained.

2. Service animals do not need tickets to ride the train. It's a good idea, however, for a service dog team to let Amtrak know ahead of time when the animal is riding a long distance train. It will be mentioned on the passenger manifest and the conductors (and sleeper attendants) will be able to plan ahead for the service dog team's "fresh air" stops.

3. Also by federal law, "vetting" of a service dog team is limited to two questions: 1. Is this a trained service dog? 2. What task is the dog trained to do for you?

3. Lots of service animals (besides my hearing dog) ride Amtrak. Last year I encountered three: a Great Dane trained to lie atop its owner during epileptic seizures, a small mutt trained to prevent its owner from cutting herself, and a guide Lab for a sightless person.

4. HarHBG is right, however. Many selfish and dishonest people fraudulently claim their pets are service animals, buying vests and "certificates" online, and ride Amtrak with them. This often results in unpleasant suspicion and unfair treatment of legitimate service dog teams.

I personally think some kind of government registration of and identification for service dogs is a good idea, provided that medical privacy is retained. Michigan has just passed a law enabling VOLUNTARY registration and ID of service dogs. That will help in many cases although it won't solve them all.
North Carolina has a voluntary registration as well. You have to send an application that includes parts filled out by a trainer and a statement from said trainer or statements from witnesses that you trained your own dog. If the person reviewing is satisfied with everything, you are issued a card with the DHHS seal, your dogs info and a statement of state registration and recognition. I think all states should offer this to separate real service dogs from the fakes.
I've yet to see a "legitimate" service animal on Amtrak. Real service animals are trained, highly trained. Every "service animal" I've encountered on Amtrak Long Distance trains was just someones pet. How do I know? Just watch the handler and the animal. Legitimate service animals are trained and experienced in holding their toilet need for many hours at a time. My father supported our family all his life training Police Service Animals.

All the animals (I can recall 4 as of this writing) I've witnessed on board Long Distance trains did indeed urinate and defecate while on board the train, commonly in the vestibule on the lower level of the sleeper car in front of the door while waiting for the train to come to a full halt at a stop, leaving the sleeping car attendant to deal with the mess.

I first-hand watched / witnessed a woman take her dog into a lower level toilet to let the dog relieve itself on the floor and walk away. I had exited the shower and casually waited until the woman left then looked into the bathroom. What made me suspect? The frowning glare / scowl she threw at me as she entered the toilet. I raised a fuss, personally confronted the woman, got the conductor involved but to no avail. Conductor was too "timid" to confront the woman and I personally helped the service car attendant clean up the mess.

All anyone has to do is make the claim that it's a service dog and the animal is on board.

Legitimate "Service Dog" certification proof needs to be implemented for an animal to be allowed to be on board. Just like a proof of rabies vaccination is required for everything, licensing, etc., even taking your dog into a groomer. And he handler needs to be held financially responsible for any and all "messes" caused by the animal.

And before I get slammed for this post by those AU members that have taken a dislike to my brutal honestly in my postings..............

NO, I don't hate dogs. I grew up with dogs and had dogs in my home my entire life.

I just hate obnoxious, selfish, inconsiderate, self-centered, arrogant people who think the rules are meant for everyone else but themselves.

Guess that means I hate 75% of mankind.

Y'all have a great day..................
I have a service dog, but he can’t hold his urine for hours like he should because of medical reasons.He has a bad heart so he is on a diuretic (water pill) 3 times a day. I have him wear a diaper just in case he has an accident and doesn’t make it outside in time. So you can’t always judge a dog by that. If he didn’t have that pill and his other meds he wouldn’t be alive today. Plus a service dog doesn’t have to be certified by law. Look it up. And they don’t actually have to wear a service vest but if the owner is responsible and to avoid problems they would have the dog wear one. I do because of all the fake ones out there.
Just rode the Sunset Ltd from LAX to SAS, and by actual count saw 7 Dogs on the Train, including One Lady that had 2 "Purse Dogs" !
And at the risk of reopening a can of worms, let me restate:

Emotional support animals are not service animals. A service animal must be trained to perform a specific task to assist or protect their owner, and must not be disruptive or threaten others. A facility accommodating the owner and animal is not permitted to ask the owner about their disability, but is allowed to ask about the specific task that the animal is expected to perform.