dog on train

Emotional Support Animals And Amtrak

Traveling by train can be a stress-free and scenic way to see the USA, and for many, it’s an experience enhanced by the company of a pet or emotional support animal. If you’re planning a trip with Amtrak, it’s essential to understand their specific policies concerning animals on board. Amtrak allows travelers to bring service animals, which are dogs trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability, at no extra charge. These animals are not pets but are working animals that provide assistance directly related to a person’s disability.

Unlike service animals, Amtrak has more restrictive policies concerning emotional support animals. While dogs and cats are commonly accepted on Amtrak under their pet policy, other types of emotional support animals may not be permitted.

Knowing these policies in advance can help ensure a smooth trip for both you and your animal companion. You’ll need to adhere to Amtrak’s animal restrictions, which are in place to ensure the comfort and safety of all passengers. As policies can change, always check their current pet policies before booking your travel to make sure you’re up to date with the latest requirements and that your trip with your animal is as enjoyable as possible.

Amtrak’s Emotional Support Animal Policy

When planning to travel with an emotional support animal (ESA) on Amtrak, you need to be aware of two key areas: the distinctions between various types of animals, and the necessary eligibility and paperwork required by Amtrak.

Definitions and Distinctions

Emotional support animals are not the same as service animals. As defined by Amtrak:

  • Service Animal: A dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability.
  • Emotional Support Animal: Previously allowed but no longer recognized as service animals, these pets provide comfort simply by being with you, without specialized training to perform tasks.

It’s important to note: as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), only dogs are recognized as service animals. Amtrak adheres to this distinction in its policies.

Eligibility and Documentation

For emotional support animals, which don’t fall under the ADA’s definition of a service animal, you’ll need to follow Amtrak’s pet policy. This includes:

  • A limit of one pet per passenger.
  • A pet must be contained within a carrier.
  • The combined weight of the pet and carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds.
  • You must pay a pet fee for your ESA, which ranges between $29 and $39 per trip (as of January 2024).

Always make sure your animal meets the requirements before booking your trip to avoid any hitches at the station or on the train. Keep in mind that documentation signed by a licensed mental health professional is not required by Amtrak for ESAs as they are considered pets, not service animals.

Preparing for Your Trip with an Emotional Support Animal

When planning to travel on Amtrak with your emotional support animal, you’ll need to manage your reservations with special attention to pet policies, and prepare thoroughly before you board to ensure a smooth journey.

Travel Reservations

First things first, you need to book your trip. Visit and look up the pet policy details to confirm your emotional support animal meets Amtrak’s requirements. When you’re ready to make your reservations:

  • Choose an accessible seat: If you require one, ensure your seat’s accessibility accommodates both you and your animal companion.
  • Inform Amtrak about your animal: While booking your ticket, let the service know you will be bringing an emotional support animal.
  • Review the schedule and stations: Check the train schedule for any limitations on station stops that might affect your trip.

Remember that you’re responsible for keeping your animal under control at all times, and there will be a surcharge for traveling with pets, so be sure to check current rates.

Before You Board

  • Pet carrier: Although service animals can travel without a pet carrier, it’s a good idea to bring one in case it’s needed during the trip.
  • Vaccinations: Ensure your animal’s vaccinations are up to date, as you are liable for their health and behavior.
  • Plan your packing: Pack any essentials your animal will need, such as food, a water bowl, and a leash.
  • Station prep: Arrive at the train station early, especially if it’s your first time traveling with your animal. This gives you both a chance to acclimate to the busy environment.

Keep in mind that there may be additional specific requirements or restrictions, so always double-check Amtrak’s most recent policies before your travel date.

Traveling with Emotional Support Animals

When traveling with an emotional support animal on Amtrak trains, you’ll need to know specific guidelines regarding their presence during the journey and the unique considerations for different train services.

During the Journey

Your emotional support animal (ESA) is considered a pet according to Amtrak’s rules. Unlike service animals, which are trained to perform tasks for individuals with disabilities, ESAs offer comfort and aren’t trained for specific tasks. You need to follow carry-on pet guidelines: your animal should remain in its carrier and behave well in public areas.

  • Carriers: Must fit under your seat
  • Control: Keep your animal on a leash, harness, or tether when not in the carrier
  • Behavior: Your ESA must remain well-behaved at all times

Specific Train Considerations

Amtrak trains have guidelines that determine if you can bring your animal aboard. ESAs aren’t recognized by Amtrak as service animals, so they fall under Amtrak’s standard pet policy.

  • Trains: Most allow pets, check specific train restrictions
  • Floor space: Animals can’t occupy seats or block aisles
  • Fees: A surcharge applies, much like with standard pet travel

Amtrak limits the types of animals that can travel with you; only dogs and cats are typically allowed as pets. It’s important to note that there’s no financial or accommodation advantage to ESA status on Amtrak, as ESAs are not considered service animals which are allowed to travel for free and without a carrier.

Guidelines for Service Animals and Pets

Ensuring a smooth journey on Amtrak involves knowing the specific guidelines for your service animals or pets. Whether you’re a pet owner or accompanied by a service animal, the following standards help maintain a safe and comfortable environment for everybody.

Behavior and Control Standards

Your service animal or pet must be under control at all times. If you’re bringing a service animal, it should be trained to perform tasks specific to your needs. Keep in mind, service animals must not pose a direct threat to the health and safety of others. For example:

  • Excessive barking: A sign your animal isn’t under control.
  • Disruptive behavior: It mustn’t cause a significant disturbance.

Amtrak employees, including conductors, have the right to ask any out-of-control animal to leave. They are trained to recognize when an animal’s behavior is becoming disruptive to other passengers.

Additional Considerations for ESA Travel

Size and Weight Limitations

Amtrak’s Emotional Support Animal Policy stipulates that only small dogs and cats weighing 20 pounds or less are permitted to travel as ESAs. Here’s a snapshot of these limitations:

Financial Considerations

Expect to adhere to Amtrak’s pet fee structure, which applies to ESAs as well. The fees will vary depending on your itinerary, but it’s essential to factor this into your travel budget.

Journey Duration and Limits

Your travel with an ESA on Amtrak is subject to a maximum time limit of seven hours per journey. Longer trips may require alternative arrangements for your companion animal.

It’s crucial to review Amtrak’s latest guidelines before booking your ticket to ensure that your animal companion can join you for the journey and to understand any additional documentation you might need or fees that may apply.