Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 10, 2016

Pooch-Loving Pols Seek to Fast-Track Pets on Trains Plan

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brought out the big guns Wednesday — which is to say terribly photogenic little dogs — for yet another push to persuade Amtrak to let furry-footed friends ride the rails with their loved ones.

“It happens on planes all the time. So why not trains?” wondered Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council President Mike Canning. He portrayed the idea of keeping people and their pets together as a quality-of-life issue, particularly during the already stressful holiday travel season.

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Denham, right, and his dog, Lily. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Lead sponsor Denham, who also happens to serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said he’d like to see his proposal signed into law early next year.

“We have opportunities to move this either as a stand-alone bill or  as part of the passenger rail re-authorization act,” Denham said.

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman pumped the breaks a bit in terms of immediate action.

“We’re going to work with the congressmen. But we also have to make sure we’re doing it the right way,” he told HOH. His most pressing logistical concerns include properly defining what qualifies as a “pet,” establishing uniform handling guidelines (crating sounds like it would work best) and ensuring that all participating animals are fully immunized and vaccinated.

Cohen, who lost his own dog, T-Bo, years ago, said he’d dealt with similar concerns while working in the Tennessee statehouse to hammer out landmark protections for pet owners. In that case, he lobbied to have a pet defined as a companion dog or cat; this time around, he can see adding size restrictions into the mix to help smooth things over with Amtrak.

Grimm, meanwhile, was just pleased to be in such inspiring company.

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Grimm and his rescue dog, Sebastian, were at the presser. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

“This coalition makes the world a little bit better place to live in,” he said, his rescue dog, Sebastian, clutched to his chest.

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  • malachite2

    Can’t wait until some dog or cat owner just MUST take his/her (un or poorly trained and upset) animal out of his/her carrier, and the dog escapes, relieves him/herself, vomits or bites someone. Or just yaps and whines for up to 30 minutes at a time.

    I’ve seen a few “service” dogs on Amtrak already that clearly were NOT real service dogs–their owners allowed them to lie in the aisle, forcing every other person boarding to step over their “service animal” (service animals are trained to curl up under seats or tables/adjacent to their person), the animal rose & “greeted” many of the passengers, wanted to be petted, etc. Again, not how a real service animal behaves.

    There are not enough attendants on a train to deal w/the problems that can be caused by an scared or unhappy dog or cat and a thoughtless, or selfish or irresponsible pet owner.

    I am already tired of having to deal w/people who let their children run loose on the train, or talk on their cellphones loudly for hours, play loud music–and of car attendants and conductors who will do nothing to decrease any of these behaviors. Now it’s going to be dealing w/other people’s pets. Some of whom will be well behaved but plenty of who will not. I see too many of the latter on the beaches of the OR coast all year–chasing shore birds (illegal), jumping on children, running up to other dogs, sometimes harassing them or wanting to “play” and refusing to go away. And of course the owner is either in the ocean surfing, 1/2 a mile down the beach, or calling for the dog and the dog is wholly ignoring those calls and running away when the owner gets close enough to grab for the dog’s collar.

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