Amtrak set to welcome pets aboard

WASHINGTON — Amtrak will allow pets on almost all of its trains now, even Acela, after a pilot program along the Northeast Corridor found that passengers wanted to travel with their animal companions.

The pet-friendly policy kicks in immediately but comes with a few caveats. The dog or cat must weigh 20 pounds or less, including the weight of the pet carrier. And pets will be allowed on Acela only during weekend trips.

Bringing pets along on an Amtrak trip will also set back travelers $25 each way. However, service animals are allowed at no charge.

Amtrak also will limit the number of pets per train to a total of five, and advanced reservations are required.

The only exception to the pet travel policy, in addition to the weekends-only rule on Acela, is the Amtrak Auto Train, which runs from Lorton, Virginia, to Sanford, Florida. No pets will be allowed on those trains.

Amtrak plans to test out allowing pets on Acela trains as part of a pilot program beginning Saturday, Feb. 20 and running through June 12. Amtrak says, depending on demand, it may become permanent.

Why weekends only on Acela?

“Acela passengers tend to be business travelers who don’t demand pet travel as much as leisure travelers,” Amtrak’s Chelsea Kopta tells WTOP. “But on the flip side, Acela weekend service handles mostly leisure travelers.”

Pet travel on other Northeast Corridor and long-distance trains will be available seven days a week.

Amtrak started the pilot program along the Northeast Corridor last October to gauge passenger interest in traveling with their pets.

Amtrak says more than 2,700 pets traveled with their human companions during the four-month pilot program. The passenger train service says D.C. has been among the top departure cities for passengers traveling with pets.

Jeff Clabaugh

Jeff Clabaugh has spent 20 years covering the Washington region's economy and financial markets for WTOP as part of a partnership with the Washington Business Journal, and officially joined the WTOP newsroom staff in January 2016.

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