California & the West

Want to bring a dog or cat on your next Amtrak ride? Now you can, on most routes

Good news for pet lovers who travel. Small cats and dogs will be allowed to ride with their owners on selected Amtrak rail routes nationwide starting this month.

Amtrak announced Tuesday that it would expand and extend a pilot program that began last year in Illinois and on the East Coast. During the test, 2,700 pets traveled with their owners.

However, not all California passengers will be able to take advantage of the pets-on-trains policy -- yet. More on that later.

Here are the particulars for passengers:

-- Pets are limited to small cats and dogs (animal with carrier must weigh 20 pounds or less).

-- It costs $25 per pet each way, and only one per customer.

-- Pets must stay with their owner (no cargo or shipping animals).

-- And pets must stay in their carrier during the entire ride.

Amtrak is adding the pet service to most long-distance routes lasting less than seven hours.

You can buy your pet a ticket for travel starting Feb. 16, and weekends only starting Feb. 20 on the Acela Express between Boston and Washington, D.C.

Now back to those California routes.

The pet policy doesn't apply to riders on the Pacific Surfliner from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, the Capital Corridor from San Jose to Auburn, and the San Joaquin in the Central Valley.

That's because those routes are operated with local joint powers authorities who need to sign off on the pet policy. Matt Hardison, executive vice president of marketing, says he doesn't anticipate problems with adding the service, but it's not in place right now.

However, pets are allowed on the long-distance Coast Starlight and California Zephyr, which also travel in the state.

To see more about pet travel on Amtrak, go to the Pets on Trains page on the railway's website.

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