amtrak pet policy

Is Amtrak Pet Friendly? – Amtrak’s Pet Policy (2024)

Written By: Michelina Da Fonte

Choo-choo-choose adventure:  Learn all about Amtrak’s pet policy to make train travel with your four-legged companion as smooth as can be.

Amtrak, a dependable and safe rail passenger service, is a convenient way to travel to 46 US states (and parts of Canada) with over 30 train routes and 500 destinations. Featuring trains that consume less energy and emit less emissions on a per-passenger-mile than cars and planes, Amtrak is also an ideal travel option for environmental-conscious travelers. It’s also less expensive than air travel (for humans and pets, alike!) and often less time-consuming than car travel. While Amtrak invites pets to travel alongside their owners, passengers must be familiar with Amtrak’s pet policy and restrictions. 

Amtrak Pet Policy Overview

Sorry rabbits, birds, reptiles, and other cuddly critters, Amtrak only allows small dogs and cats to travel on their trains, with some additional restrictions. Your four-legged companion and its carrier must have a combined weight of 20 pounds or less and the route must be a maximum of seven hours total, including transfer time during a multiple-segment trip.  

Pet reservations are limited to one pet per customer and must be booked when purchasing your ticket(s) under “additional items” at checkout. If the pet add-on option is not visible, you have either selected a non-pet-friendly route or it is possible that all pet reservations (typically a maximum of five per train) are reserved and you’ll have to choose another time or route. Note that your pet in its carrier counts as one of your carry-on baggage items. Although pet fees vary by route, they tend to cost either $29 or $39 per travel segment. At the end of booking your travel reservation, you are required to read and sign a Pet Release and Indemnification Agreement for each travel segment. This paperwork will be checked at the ticket office so that Amtrak agents can validate your pet’s eligibility.

While your small pups and kitties are welcome in Coach and Acela Business Classes, they are not permitted to travel in Acela First Class, non-Acela Business Class, First Class private rooms, or in food service cars. Also, on Keystone and Pennsylvania trains, pets may not travel in the Quiet Cars.

Preparing for Your Trip

To best prepare for your Amtrak pet friendly adventure, you’ll want to have the right gear and documentation in place. Because passengers are responsible for providing a pet carrier for their pet’s train travels, you’ll need to select an approved carrier with max dimensions of 19” long, 14” wide, and 10.5” high. The carrier may be hard or soft-sided but must be leak-proof and well-ventilated. According to Amtrak, for your pet’s safety, your pet must be able to sit, lie down, and remain entirely inside the carrier without touching the sides of the carrier. 

Your furry friend must be fully vaccinated, at least eight weeks old, not disruptive (meaning no barking or incessant purring,) harmful, and without odor. They also must not require attention during travel and are not permitted to leave their carrier at any time. As travel can be stressful for your fur baby, they should be in overall good health and in a normal calm state.

amtrak dog friendly policy jet set pets blog

Photo courtesy of @pacsurfliner

Amtrak Pet Travel Tips and Tricks

Arriving 45 minutes before your train’s departure is requested when traveling with pets. To ensure a smooth check-in process, have ready a copy of all documentation including your pet agreement form, vaccinations, medications, etc. It is important to note that pets are not welcome to join you in any station lounges or First Class waiting areas.

While traveling, keeping your pet calm, quiet, and secure can be stressful for you both! To combat this, in addition to bringing food and water (along with travel bowls) we suggest bringing your pet’s favorite toy, treats, small blanket, and any other items that may help bring them a sense of calm on the Amtrak journey. If you have an anxious pet or you’re concerned with your pet’s behavior and travel is a must, we recommend visiting your veterinarian’s office and discussing medication or other methods to put your pet at ease during travel. If bringing medication, be sure to have proper documentation should it be needed.

Once aboard the train, pets in their carriers are required to be stowed underneath your seat. Because they must remain in their carrier at all times while on the train and in the train stations you’ll want to provide as much exercise and active time as possible before arriving at the Amtrak station and boarding the train.

Although not a formal policy, Amtrak may allow your pet a brief relief break at certain station stops. It’s up to the discretion of the crew and not guaranteed, so you’ll want to ask once you’re aboard the train.

Pawsome Amtrak Routes to Explore with Your Pet

Sharing the bond of travel with your beloved pet can be a memorable experience. From breathtaking views to quick trips to exciting places, Amtrak offers many routes perfect for you and your traveling pet.

Scenic Routes: Picturesque routes are perfect for pet companions, including the Pacific Surfliner which runs along California’s coastline and offers many options for stops including Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and more. Or, take a ride along the Downeaster which travels up the coast of New England, ending in Portland, Maine. 

City Hops: Many routes connect vibrant cities, ideal for urban exploration with your furry friend including the Cardinal route that features stops in New York, Washington, DC, Cincinnati, Indianapolis, and Chicago. The Northeast Regional route  stops in Boston, Providence, New York, and more. 

Nature Trails: Amtrak has plentiful routes throughout the US that are close to national parks and monuments as well as nature reserves for adventurous pets. These include Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited, Southwest Chief, Empire Builder, and more. Check out Amtrak’s destination blog for specific itineraries for parks and natural attractions located near each Amtrak route.  

Be aware that certain routes designate specific Coach cars for pets such as Amtrak Cascades which runs from Vancouver through Washington and Oregon, Carl Sandburg which travels between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois, and others. On all other pet-friendly routes, you may ride in any Coach car with your pet.

Success Story

Jet Set Pets was able to chat with Stacy Leinart Millet, a traveler who brought her English Bulldog puppy on an Amtrak train from Denver to Glenwood Springs, Colorado. She was kind enough to share some insight and helpful advice for traveling on Amtrak with her beloved furry friend. “Know your pet. Only take a mellow pet who will not become overstimulated. Your pet will not appreciate it nor will your fellow travelers. Also, bring enough food and water for a major delay and, be realistic if your pet can ‘hold it’ for the required time,” Stacy told us. “Bring extra bedding for the carrier just in case your pet has an accident,” she added. When asked what the most challenging part of her and her poochie’s trip was, Stacy replied, “My nervousness about whether or not he would break his pattern of being so mellow. I respected that everyone else had paid for their tickets and would not appreciate a barking pup. Fortunately, he was his usual calm self.”

amtrak pet friendly travel policy jet set pets guide

Photo courtesy of @vicchristopher

Navigating Challenges

While Stacy’s Amtrak pet experience is a positive one, challenges could easily arise while traveling with your fur baby. Anticipating those challenges can make or break your travel plans. Because you must remain with your pet at all times, restroom and food breaks must be planned in advance. If you’re traveling alone with your pet, be sure to use the restroom at the stations before your train departs. You’ll also want to bring your own food, snacks, and drinks as pets are not permitted in the food cars. 

As Stacy suggested, preparing yourself for “accidents” is also wise. Bringing additional carrier bedding and a waterproof, sealable bag for the soiled bedding is suggested.

Hop Aboard

Whatever pet inclusive adventures you plan to take with Amtrak, be sure to familiarize yourself and adhere to Amtrak’s pet policies and restrictions. Adhering to these policies will keep you, other travelers, and your sweet pet safe as you enjoy quality time exploring together and seeing new landscapes, cities, and coastlines.

Are you and your pet headed aboard an Amtrak train? Tag #jetsetpets on Instagram for a chance to be featured! We can’t wait to see your cross-country travels and city romps with your furry companion.

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