Pet owners who want to travel with a dog or cat used to have just two options.
They could fly, or they could drive. But Amtrak has launched a pilot “pets on board” program in Chicago that may open up a third option.
Your pet ticket will cost an additional $25. Dogs and cats may now come on board the Illinois Zephyr or the Cal Sandburg. They must be crated, and the crates must be stored under the seat. Passengers will travel in a pet-friendly train car so that they do not bother passengers who might be allergic to pets. Amtrak will also weigh each pet at the station to make sure they do not exceed the weight limit.
Even if this program comes to the DC area, however, you may wish to be cautious before bringing pets on the train, unless you are only anticipating a very short trip.
A domestic plane ride usually takes just a few hours. For example, you could fly from Chicago to Minneapolis in about 90 minutes. The same trip via train takes roughly 8 hours. Going from Chicago to New Orleans would take you 24 hours.
While the slower, steadier traffic can be less stressful for some humans, being stuck in a crate for over a day is pure misery for pets! There are no walk breaks for dogs on the train. There are no litter accommodations for cats in a crate.
Pet-permissible travel on a plane, in a car, or even on a train is not necessarily “pet-friendly” travel from the pet’s point of view! After all, if you get stir crazy even in a seat with decent legroom then imagine how your pet would feel about traveling in a tiny box for hours at a time!
For the most part, it may be better to simply arrange to have a pet sitter take care of your dog or cat when you can’t be there. Here in Washington DC, Pet Peeps will feed your pet, groom your pet, take care of your pet’s potty needs, offer attention and administer medications–all in the comfort of your pet’s own home. Pets are happier and less stressed with such arrangements. Ultimately, they’re less stressful for you, too.
It’s just something to keep in mind, even if Amtrak changes the policy on each and every train.