AAFA Addresses Amtrak's New "Pets on Trains" Policy

 

Notice any small cats and dogs riding the rails on Amtrak recently?

One of the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America's Facebook fans did. The person told us about a recent policy change, writing:

This obviously poses a huge health risk to children and adults with pet allergies, some of which may be severe or even life-threatening. Amtrak isn't even reserving a single car to be designated as pet-free, not even the quiet car. Would the AAFA be willing to send a letter to Amtrak illustrating how dangerous this policy is? All Amtrak needs to do is designate one or two coach cars as pet-free.

AAFA investigated. We found that the railroad recently introduced a test program called “Pets on Trains.”

Passengers are able to take one cat or one small dog in a carrier with them on the train, on certain lines. The railroad is hoping the change attracts more passengers and more revenue.

In response, Dr. Cary Sennett, AAFA’s President and Chief Executive Officer, wrote Amtrak. He asked the national railroad to consider pet-free cars, noting:

  • Allowing pets in coach cars will expose everyone to pet dander. That will happen even when the pet is riding in an enclosed carrier.
  • Dander can become airborne and remain when the pet has left. For some people, airborne allergens may trigger a severe allergic reaction or an asthma attack.
  • Amtrak is often considered a safer alternative to flying for travelers with allergies.

Amtrak recently responded, saying it does not think a pet-free car is necessary. It added:

  • Pets are limited to five per train.
  • Crews will keep passengers with health concerns away from pets. That is the current policy with service dogs, which Amtrak has always allowed.
  • It will give AAFA's concerns on behalf of its asthma and allergy community "serious consideration going forward."
  • Evaluation of the program continues.

In the meantime, AAFA advises passengers to know the details of the pet policy so they can plan ahead.

AAFA understands the unique challenges that people with asthma and allergies face. Travel often requires accommodations to keep those with asthma and allergies healthy. 

It is important to stay up-to-date on news about asthma and allergies. By joining our community and following our blog, you will receive timely news about research and treatments. Our community also provides an opportunity to connect with other patients who manage these conditions for peer support.


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Comments (17)

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Ann Barbiero posted:

Since when do pets take precedence over the health of humans? This is discrimination and is illegal.

The Americans with Disabilities Act needs to be revised to address this discriminatory situation. Persons advocating for persons with asthma &/or allergies should call and/or write to:

Civil Rights Division of US Dept of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530 USA, phone: 1-202-514-4609

and give them your story/case (asthma and/or allergy situation). Important to stress in your story/case: Pets inside any confined area is a direct threat to your health by limiting your major life activity of breathing due to forcing you, in these enclosed areas, to inhale dog/pet dander which creates life-threatening respiratory issues for you. This violation of your major life activity of breathing is illegal because it is discriminating against persons with asthma and/or allergies and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act which is to protect people with disabilities. A possible accommodation: provide a separate enclosed area that was not exposed to dog/pet dander for at least a year; dog/pet dander permeates the air for up to and possibly longer than a year after dog/pet has been removed and air has been cleaned. That is why it must be a separate enclosed area where dog/pet dander has not been the past year or so.

Unfortunately, the American Civil Liberties Union will not intervene in this matter with public transportation. The number you provided is a great course of action as is local state action.

SheridanCN1 posted:
LAC posted:

I am working in my state to get a bill introduced on behalf of those of us with life-threatening asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis in regards to this ubiquitous problem of fake service pets, "emotional support" dogs and just general entitlement of pet owners bringing pets into nearly every public building and store. Those of us with dander-sensitive disabilities have been suffering in silence, are being pushed out of our communities and have been ignored, treated rudely and unheard while the number of dogs in stores, public buildings, hotels and on public transportation is multiplying to an out of control degree.

Those of us with dander disabilities need to unite and attempt to push for law changes or perhaps class action lawsuits. We should not be forced to leave stores, offices, businesses, buildings and events because dogs are being put ahead of human beings. It should be "People Before Pets"! Store and business owners and managers, building managers/owners, airlines and other public transportation companies are failing to adequately accommodate our rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing "emotional support" dogs and other pets into their buildings and vehicles and by claiming to be "dog friendly". This is illegal, but without a lobby or someone to start a class action suit, we have no recourse. What about places that are "human friendly"? Please reply to this if you are interested in being a part of organizing for some brainstorms...

Definitely interested!  There is an enormous amount of misinformation being disseminated about animal dander allergies, and appropriate treatment for asthma and allergies.  There is a lot of work that can and should be done to help people understand the facts and the fair treatment of persons affected by these conditions.    

The bill in my state passed in the House Committee. If it is voted to pass in the House, it will move to the Senate. It is a long process, but you have to begin by contacting your local House of Representatives rep for your area. Explain to him or her why a bill in your state is needed and ask him or her to look at examples of other states who are tightening up on the misrepresentation of pets as "service animals".

805Native posted:

I contacted Amtrak through their website with an electronic message option in October 2018. I received no reply when I inquired about how they are accommodating passengers with dog/cat allergies and allergy induced asthma. It appears that the travel industry as a whole is putting profits before public health and safety. Also, I don't understand why the travel industry is not subject to make accommodations for a breathing disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I  had an allergic reactions on a flight when I came into direct contact with a person playing with their dog on their lap, the dog's dander was airborne, and by the time we landed, I had a full blown allergy attack. This, even after taking my allergy/asthma medication before I boarded the flight. Upon landing, due to congestion, I had pain in my head, so severe that it felt like my brain was going to explode. So, I haven't traveled by plane from the west coast to the east coast since that flight in 2011. Now, it appears that I will no longer be able to travel by train without fear of being in direct contact with a dog allergen that can cause an allergy and asthma attack. There may  be no relief for people with dog/cat allergies, unless there is legislation put in place to protect our right to breathe.

I haven't been able to fly since 2011. I contacted the ACLU and they declined to take on the issue of pets being allowed on planes and trains without even the ADA standards in place to protect those of us with dander-sensitive asthma and allergies. It is very unjust how profits are being put before life and death health issues.

Welcome, 805Native, and I can understand your frustration. 

The ADA does not regulate air transportation. Instead, the Air Carrier Access Act (ACAA) regulates flying. Currently, the ACAA regulations have a much broader definition of a “service animal" than the ADA does.

You can read more about this on AAFA's blog post Share Your Stories About Animals on Planes and How They Affect People With Asthma and Allergies.

I contacted Amtrak through their website with an electronic message option in October 2018. I received no reply when I inquired about how they are accommodating passengers with dog/cat allergies and allergy induced asthma. It appears that the travel industry as a whole is putting profits before public health and safety. Also, I don't understand why the travel industry is not subject to make accommodations for a breathing disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act. I  had an allergic reactions on a flight when I came into direct contact with a person playing with their dog on their lap, the dog's dander was airborne, and by the time we landed, I had a full blown allergy attack. This, even after taking my allergy/asthma medication before I boarded the flight. Upon landing, due to congestion, I had pain in my head, so severe that it felt like my brain was going to explode. So, I haven't traveled by plane from the west coast to the east coast since that flight in 2011. Now, it appears that I will no longer be able to travel by train without fear of being in direct contact with a dog allergen that can cause an allergy and asthma attack. There may  be no relief for people with dog/cat allergies, unless there is legislation put in place to protect our right to breathe.

LAC posted:

I am working in my state to get a bill introduced on behalf of those of us with life-threatening asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis in regards to this ubiquitous problem of fake service pets, "emotional support" dogs and just general entitlement of pet owners bringing pets into nearly every public building and store. Those of us with dander-sensitive disabilities have been suffering in silence, are being pushed out of our communities and have been ignored, treated rudely and unheard while the number of dogs in stores, public buildings, hotels and on public transportation is multiplying to an out of control degree.

Those of us with dander disabilities need to unite and attempt to push for law changes or perhaps class action lawsuits. We should not be forced to leave stores, offices, businesses, buildings and events because dogs are being put ahead of human beings. It should be "People Before Pets"! Store and business owners and managers, building managers/owners, airlines and other public transportation companies are failing to adequately accommodate our rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing "emotional support" dogs and other pets into their buildings and vehicles and by claiming to be "dog friendly". This is illegal, but without a lobby or someone to start a class action suit, we have no recourse. What about places that are "human friendly"? Please reply to this if you are interested in being a part of organizing for some brainstorms...

Definitely interested!  There is an enormous amount of misinformation being disseminated about animal dander allergies, and appropriate treatment for asthma and allergies.  There is a lot of work that can and should be done to help people understand the facts and the fair treatment of persons affected by these conditions.    

Melissa G posted:

I am so sorry you have had so many struggles. We have four in our family with asthma and two children with life threatening food allergies. 

I'm really sorry to hear about your family's allergies and asthma, as well. It is so scary, especially with children. We have multiple family members with various allergies and four that have/had life-threatening asthmatic reactions to dander. I am here to try to find other like-minded sufferers to help us mobilize a legal effort to put a stop to this out of control problem of dogs and other animals in public buildings, stores and on public transportation. It seems like the dander issue is inadequately addressed by many of the organizations that advocate for those with allergies and lung issues, but the problem is growing exponentially.

Melissa G posted:

Welcome to AAFA LAC! How long have you been dealing with alleriges/asthma?

Hi, I've had allergies since age three and asthma since age 14, after a severe case of bronchitis. The animal dander reactions became increasingly severe to the point of being life-threatening by age 15. I also have food sensitivities and a food and drug allergy, but it is the dander allergy that poses the greatest threat, as our society is so hostile towards anyone who points out that people need to come before dogs.

I am working in my state to get a bill introduced on behalf of those of us with life-threatening asthma, allergies and anaphylaxis in regards to this ubiquitous problem of fake service pets, "emotional support" dogs and just general entitlement of pet owners bringing pets into nearly every public building and store. Those of us with dander-sensitive disabilities have been suffering in silence, are being pushed out of our communities and have been ignored, treated rudely and unheard while the number of dogs in stores, public buildings, hotels and on public transportation is multiplying to an out of control degree.

Those of us with dander disabilities need to unite and attempt to push for law changes or perhaps class action lawsuits. We should not be forced to leave stores, offices, businesses, buildings and events because dogs are being put ahead of human beings. It should be "People Before Pets"! Store and business owners and managers, building managers/owners, airlines and other public transportation companies are failing to adequately accommodate our rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act by allowing "emotional support" dogs and other pets into their buildings and vehicles and by claiming to be "dog friendly". This is illegal, but without a lobby or someone to start a class action suit, we have no recourse. What about places that are "human friendly"? Please reply to this if you are interested in being a part of organizing for some brainstorms...

Kathy P - Please feel free to use my comments below.

I am being excluded, which is discriminatory and illegal, by being unable to travel on trains, planes and unable to go to airline terminals, hotels/motels, buildings, hospitals, nursing homes, hospitals, etc. because I cannot be where dog/pets have been in the past year due to my allergy to dog/pet dander. This is a direct threat to my health by limiting my major life activity of breathing due to forcing me, in these enclosed areas, to inhale such dander which creates life-threatening respiratory issues for me. Dog and pet dander permeates the air similar to smoke and is present even though it is not visible to the naked eye and remains for around a year even after dog/pet has been removed and the air and environment cleaned. Dog/pet dander is breathed into a human's body, attaches externally to human's hair, eyelashes, body hair, skin, clothing, footwear, etc. and requires removal and cleaning of clothing, as well as, hair and entire body showering to remove dander. Ignorance of dog/pet dander is no excuse for discriminating against me and others with asthma and allergies due to dog/pet dander; discrimination is illegal. Please resolve this nationally and internationally.

Ann Barbiero

Since when do pets take precedence over the health of humans? This is discrimination and is illegal.

The Americans with Disabilities Act needs to be revised to address this discriminatory situation. Persons advocating for persons with asthma &/or allergies should call and/or write to:

Civil Rights Division of US Dept of Justice, 950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20530 USA, phone: 1-202-514-4609

and give them your story/case (asthma and/or allergy situation). Important to stress in your story/case: Pets inside any confined area is a direct threat to your health by limiting your major life activity of breathing due to forcing you, in these enclosed areas, to inhale dog/pet dander which creates life-threatening respiratory issues for you. This violation of your major life activity of breathing is illegal because it is discriminating against persons with asthma and/or allergies and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act which is to protect people with disabilities. A possible accommodation: provide a separate enclosed area that was not exposed to dog/pet dander for at least a year; dog/pet dander permeates the air for up to and possibly longer than a year after dog/pet has been removed and air has been cleaned. That is why it must be a separate enclosed area where dog/pet dander has not been the past year or so.

I personally have a hard time with people bringing their "service animals" into the grocery store.  What about public health standards for the rest of us? And I agree, that there should be an area on planes, trains and buses for those of us who need a pet free space.  Cat dander, dog fur, dog smells etc. are all an irritant to someone with asthma and allergies.  Even after the pets leave their evidence remains long after.  

Dogs are everywhere now. In restaurants, they are on the patio.  They are in grocery stores, in carts, no less.  Where is the Allergic Asthma Lobby?  There was a Group that got peanuts removed from some airlines.  What about those of us that could go into a massive asthma attack due to dander.  Oh, and I love telling people there are no such thing as hypoallergenic animals.  They don't like hearing that at all.

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