By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
In anticipation of the Thanksgiving holiday – one of the busiest travel times of the year – animal rights advocates are pushing a pet cause.
A bipartisan group of congress members, including U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm (R-C-Bay Ridge-Staten Island), and members of the Pet Industry Advisory Council called on Amtrak to allow household animals to ride on trains with their masters.
Dogs, cats, canaries, and other pets are currently banned from trains. Only service dogs are permitted on Amtrak.
Grimm was among several representatives at a Washington DC press conference on Wednesday calling on Amtrak to change its policy. Grimm brought his Yorkie Sebastian to the press conference.
“To any pet owner, a pet is a part of the family,” Grimm said.
“Currently, travelers are put in the difficult position where they are forced to choose between taking the train and leaving their pet behind. As someone who travels frequently between New York and DC, I would welcome the option to travel with my dog, Sebastian,” Grimm said.
An estimated 29.1 million Americans have traveled with a pet in a car in the past three years, according to the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
A bill, called the Pets on Trains Act of 2013, has been introduced in the House that would open the doors on Amtrak and permit four-legged companions to join their owners on train rides.
“Pets on Trains is a simple, common-sense bill that would save millions of pet owners time and money and allow them to bring beloved companions along when traveling via train,” said US Rep. Jeff Denham (R-California), the bill’s sponsor. “My French bulldog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us all the time – we never want to leave her behind,” he said.
The proposed legislation called for Amtrak to designate a “pet car” on each train.
Amtrak can afford to accommodate pets, according to animal rights activists, who said the railroad’s ticket revenues were $56.1 million last year.
“The pet industry embraces Pets on Trains legislation because we are fully aware of the benefits traveling together has to pet owners, as well as the pets themselves,” said Mike Canning, president and CEO of the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council.
“I won't go anywhere my dog is not welcome. I won't spend money anywhere my dog is not welcome,” said Laura Votivo, Hallmark Channel’s pet lifestyle expert and certified dog trainer. “I would be more than happy to buy a ticket on Amtrak for my dog, as would the millions of other travelers, many of whom support the 50 plus billion dollar pet industry. That is why I support the Pets on Trains Act of 2013,” she said.
The bill’s supporters urged pet owners to lobby congress by visiting their website and following the prompts to contact their elected representatives on Capitol Hill.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council is comprised of members of the pet industry, including pet food and pet supply manufacturers, veterinarians, retailers, pet day care and boarding facilities and groomers. For more information, visit www.pijac.org.
Amtrak officials did not return phone calls.