The U.S. House passed a bill that would allow train passengers to carry-on cats and dogs.
Today the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to authorize about $8 billion in funding for Amtrak by an overwhelming 316-101 vote. That's mixed news if you're a person, as the bill has high and low points. But you're probably wagging your tail right now if you're a cat or a dog, because it also outlines a pilot program for passengers traveling with pets—the Pet Car:
Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, Amtrak shall develop a pilot program that allows passengers to transport domesticated cats or dogs on certain trains operated by Amtrak.
It goes on to describe how the pilot program would designate "where feasible, at least 1 car" for ticketed passengers traveling with pets, provided the animal is contained in a kennel that meets Amtrak's size requirements for carry-on bags. A separate provision allows the animal to travel as cargo as long as the baggage area "is temperature controlled in a manner protective of cat and dog safety and health."
Passengers will pay a pet fee that covers the "full costs" of the pilot program. Republican Congressman Jeff Denham of California believes the Pet Car could ultimately be a money-maker for the train service. Here's Denham talking to The Hill:
"This is something that will allow new riders that didn't previously want to ride the train before because they couldn't take their pet on there to do so, but also a new revenue generation with paying for those pets the same way that our airplanes across the country are paid for taking their pets," Denham said.
This isn't Denham's first foray into the world of Amtrak passenger pets. In 2013, he sponsored a "Pets on Trains Act" that bears a strong resemblance to the new pilot program. And Amtrak is currently conducting a similar pilot in Illinois: the pet fare was $25 and made on a first-come, first-serve basis up to four reservations per train, with passengers required to keep pets under their seats and prohibited from bringing them into the kibble, er, café car.
Amtrak also lets service animals on board, a policy that wouldn't be impacted by the Pet Car. Under the terms of the House bill, the success of the pilot program would be evaluated after a year. The Amtrak bill now moves to the Senate—though it's reported to have the support of the White House. Including, obviously, Bo.