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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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.