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.