Can You Take a Service Dog on Amtrak?
Although federal laws protect the presence of service animals on airlines, can you take a service dog on an Amtrak train? Short answer: Yes, you can.
In more detail, Amtrak operates a nationwide rail network through 46 states and three Canadian provinces. It’s rail network accesses 500 destinations and is federally chartered, with the federal government as the majority stockholder. In 2016, 17.8 million trips were made on the NEC rail lines alone. With so many passengers traveling on Amtrak, the company is familiar with the needs of passengers with disabilities and their service dogs.
Amtrak’s Animal Passenger Rules
Amtrak understands the need for animals to travel with their owners. They’ve established carry-on pet guidelines where animals must remain inside a carrier while in stations and onboard trains (with exceptions on some specific routes). These guidelines apply for the following animals:
- Emotional Support Animals (ESA): ESAs give emotional support but are not trained to execute a specific task.
- Police Dogs: Dogs used for public safety or by the Amtrak Police Department.
- Search and Rescue Dogs: Dogs specifically trained to serve a general purpose, but not for an individual’s personal use.
- Pets: Dogs and cats under 20 kg (including the carrier) are allowed on trips less than 7 hours. Pets are allowed in Coach class only; They are not allowed in First class, Business class, bedrooms, or dining cars.
Service animals do not fall in any of the above categories, and therefore the carry-on pet guidelines do not apply.
Service Dog Considerations on Amtrak
Federal laws apply to service animals, which protects their handlers’ right to have their service dog by their side at all times. Because of their importance, service animals are not considered pets. Instead, the fees and general rules that apply to pets don’t apply to service dogs.
Although the service dog is essential to the wellbeing of their handler, service dogs are still animals. To keep both the service dog and other passengers safe, there are specific rules that service dogs and their owners must abide by:
1. Remain on the Floor
Service dogs onboard an Amtrak train must remain on the floor. They can sit or lie under their handler’s seat or at their feet, but they can’t be on a seat, bed, or in the aisle. Trains have tight spaces, keeping the aisles free for others to pass is vital.
2. Walking a Service Dog
Amtrak trains have scheduled stops with breaks for passengers to change trains or get some fresh air. Service dog owners are welcome to take their dogs out for walks during these stops and re-board at the same time as other passengers. Service dog handlers are responsible for the care of the service dog at all times, which includes any “accidents” the dog may have.
3. Prior Notification
To ensure that Amtrak can accommodate a service animal, it’s best to make a reservation on their website (Amtrak.com) or through their number (1-800-USA-RAIL ). This allows Amtrak to set aside an accessible seat upon request. Amtrak can also provide a list of stops along the route.
4. Keeping a Controlled Service Dog
Amtrak has everything that could make a passenger comfortable. From onboard dining rooms to private rooms, Amtrak provides a unique experience to make each trip pleasurable. Though service dogs can accompany their handlers throughout the journey, they must remain well-behaved and calm.
Amtrak holds a service dog to the following requirements:
- The service dog must be leashed, tethered, or harnessed at all times unless it is contraindicated because of the handler’s disability.
- The service dog must be under the handler’s control and not pose a disturbance to other passengers.
If a dog is causing a significant disruption to the environment, such as barking uncontrollably or acting aggressively, an Amtrak employee may ask the handler to remove the dog from the area. In that case, the service dog handler can choose to remain in the area; however, the dog may not be left alone. If there is no one to accept custody, then the handler may resume travel at another time.
Traveling with a Service Dog on Amtrak
A service dog provides an individual with a disability with more freedom to do the activities they enjoy, including traveling. Amtrak understands the importance of service dogs and is prepared to welcome them aboard their trains.
When on an Amtrak train, show everyone your service dog is a necessary part of your life with your Service Dog ID. Get your service dog registered now.