The Ultimate Guide to Traveling with Pets on Trains within the U.S.

Full Disclosure: We may be financially compensated when you click on links to credit card products from our advertising partners, such as American Express, Chase, Citi & Capital One. Opinions and product recommendations on this site are ours alone, and have not been influenced, reviewed or approved by the issuer. See our Advertiser Disclosure for more details. Thanks!

When planning your next trip within the U.S., you may not want to leave your 4-legged friend at home. Thankfully, with many train services now allowing small pets to be carried on board, there are alternative options to flying or driving.

Train travel can be much less stressful than flying for both pet and owner, with shorter check-in times and the comfort of having your pet on your lap for the entire journey, rather than under your seat or in the hold compartment.

There’s also the cost to consider, with the likes of Delta Air Lines and United charging from $125 to transport your pet as carry-on, versus Amtrak, where pets can be carried for just $26.

This helpful guide will help you plan for your trip and rounds-up the pet policies for each train operator listed by individual state.

This information relates to pets-only, not officially trained service dogs that are governed under the Americans with Disabilities Act and are permitted to go “where the public is normally allowed to go”.

Things to Consider Pre-Travel

To ensure the well-being of your faithful friend, and that you’re adhering to certain rules, there are some things to consider when planning to take your pet on board a train.

Motion Sickness

Like humans, some animals can get motion sickness, so it’s advisable to test out some short journeys before embarking on a 7-hour train ride. Be sure to have plenty of water with you to avoid your pet becoming dehydrated as this will only make the motion sickness worse.

Behavior

As many train operators only permit small pets to be transported within a pet carrier, you’ll need to test out how your pet responds to being inside a cage for long periods.

Many train operators such as Amtrak state that the pet must not be disruptive, so train travel may not be suitable if you have a dog that barks continuously when in their pet carrier.

Heath and Documentation Requirements

On local train services, documentation is not likely to be requested by train personnel; however, when using Amtrak services, passengers must sign to certify that their pet is up-to-date with their vaccinations.

To transport a pet between states, most states require that the pet have a recent Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), which indicates that the pet is clear of rabies and other infectious diseases. Each state has different rules as to when the certificate should be obtained before entering a state, but the most common time period is within 30 days before entry.

Pet Identification

Although not mandatory in the U.S., you may want to consider getting your pet micro-chipped for their safety. If your pet became lost in an unknown destination, the likelihood of tracking them down would be far greater with a microchip. You should also make sure that they have a collar with your contact number.

Nearest Vet

Even if you’re only taking a short trip, it’s still wise to familiarize yourself with your nearest vet just in case they require urgent care while traveling.

Relief Breaks

If you’re traveling on a long train ride, then you’ll need to ensure there are sufficient relief breaks along your route. Check with the train operator to see if they have any scheduled stops that are more than just a couple of minutes so that you have time to relieve your pet in a suitable location.

Checklist for What to Take on Board

  • Vet contact details.
  • Well-ventilated pet carrier.
  • Collar and leash.
  • Blankets/jacket if the journey is cold.
  • Chew toys for inside their carrier.
  • Snacks, food, and plenty of water.
  • Food and drink bowls.
  • Poop bags.
  • Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI).

Amtrak Pet Policy

Amtrak Route Map
Amtrak route map. Image Credit: Amtrak

Amtrak permits passengers to bring dogs or cats (up to 20 pounds) onboard many of its train journeys that are 7 hours or less. Pets are not permitted on specific mainline routes or Thruway connecting services (green routes on the above map and detailed by state in the table below).

Mainline Routes Where Pets are NOT Permitted

Amtrak pet exclusion routes
Amtrak pet exclusion routes. Image Credit: Upgraded Points
  • Auto Train: Lorton, VA (Washington, DC) – Sanford, FL (Orlando)
  • Capital Corridor: Auburn – Sacramento – Emeryville (San Francisco) – Oakland – San Jose
  • Keystone Service: NYC – Philadelphia – Paoli – Downingtown – Lancaster – Harrisburg
  • Pacific Surfliner: San Luis Obispo – Santa Barbara – Los Angeles – Anaheim – San Diego
  • Pennsylvanian: New York – Philadelphia –  Lancaster – Harrisburg – Altoona – Pittsburgh
  • San Joaquins: San Francisco Bay Area / Sacramento – Bakersfield / Southern California

Amtrak provides the following guidelines and rules for bringing your pet on board:

  • Pets must be booked on a reservation with a maximum of 5 pets permitted on each train service, available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
  • Only 1 pet is permitted per passenger, and they may only ride in coach class, rather than business class or any sleeper services.
  • Pets must be transported in a pet carrier measuring no more than 19 x 14 x 10.5 inches and must be well ventilated and leak proof. The total weight of the pet inside the carrier cannot exceed 20 pounds.
  • Pet carriers count towards a passenger’s carry-on allowance and must be placed under the passenger’s seat. Pets are not permitted outside of the carrier for the duration of the journey or in stations.

Hot Tip: The following routes designate pet-specific coaches; whereas, for other pet-friendly routes, pets are permitted in any coach cars: Amtrak Cascades, Blue Water, Carl Sandburg, Hiawatha, Illini, Illinois Zephyr, Lincoln Service, Missouri River Runner, Pere Marquette, Saluki, and Wolverine.

Paperwork and Health Requirements

  • Passengers must sign a Pet Release and Indemnification Agreement for each segment of the journey.
  • Passengers must check-in at the ticket desk no later than 30 minutes before the train departs, to allow time to complete the pet release paperwork.
  • Pets must be 8 weeks or older to travel on Amtrak services and be odorless and non-disruptive to other passengers.
  • Passengers will certify that their pet is up-to-date with all required vaccinations before travel.

Booking Procedure

Pets can be booked onto a reservation at Amtrak.com or by calling 800-USA-RAIL. Bookings can also be made in person at an Amtrak ticket desk.

Hot Tip: Pets can travel on board Amtrak services for $26.

Train Systems that Allow Pets

StateTrain OperatorPolicy
AlabamaAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting service between Mobile and Montgomery. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
AlaskaAlaska RailroadPets are permitted in the baggage car in an airline-approved kennel.
Fee: $20 (counts as 1 piece of your checked luggage allowance)
White Pass & Yukon RouteDogs are permitted on Chilkoot Hiker Service trains but not on any connecting bus services.
Fee: $25
ArizonaPhoenix Valley Metro RailPets are permitted if they are stowed within an enclosed pet carrier that fits on the lap of the passenger or beneath the seat.
Sun LinkPets are permitted in enclosed carriers.
AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting service between Maricopa and the Grand Canyon, or Thruway from Kingman. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
ArkansasAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Little Rock Metro StreetcarUndisclosed.
CaliforniaAmtrakNot permitted on all Thruway connecting services around California. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
California MetrolinkPets are permitted if secured in an enclosed carrier, do not take up seats, do not block aisles or doorways, and do not disrupt other passengers.
Los Angeles MetroPets are permitted if secured in an enclosed carrier, do not take up seats, do not block aisles or doorways, and do not disrupt other passengers.
San Diego CoasterSmall pets are permitted if enclosed in a carrier on the passenger’s lap or the floor.
San Diego TrolleyPets are permitted if fully contained inside an enclosed carrier.
San Diego MTSPets are permitted if fully contained inside an enclosed carrier and transported on the passenger’s lap.
San Francisco BARTPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
San Francisco MuniDogs are permitted but must be leashed and muzzled, can only ride on the lap of the passenger or under their seat. Other pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
ColoradoAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services to Alamosa, Gunnison, Raton, Vail, or Cheyenne. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Denver RTDPets are permitted if transported on the passenger’s lap in a secure, enclosed carrier. All dogs are required to have rabies vaccinations and tags.
ConnecticutAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Connecticut CT Rail Shore Line EastPets are permitted if leashed or contained in an enclosed, ventilated container and must not disrupt other passengers.
Connecticut CT Rail Hartford LinePets are permitted if transported in an enclosed, pet-safe carrier with the size and weight not exceeding 19 x 14 x 10.5 inches and 20 pounds.
DelawareAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Wilmington or Salisbury. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
FloridaAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, and Fort Meyers. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Florida Tri-RailSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Florida BrightlineOnly dogs and cats are permitted on trains, and this counts towards the passenger’s carry-on or checked baggage allowance.

Only 1 pet per passenger is permitted, and if transporting on the passenger’s lap or the floor, then the carrier must not exceed 17 x 10 x 10 inches. If transported in the coach luggage tower then the carrier must not exceed 28 x 20.5 x 21.5 inches.

Miami MetromoverPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Orlando SunrailPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
GeorgiaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Atlanta MARTAPets are permitted in a secure, rigid carrier with a lock or latch to prevent escape.
HawaiiHonolulu Rail TransitUndisclosed.
IdahoAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Moscow, Ontario, or Ogden. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Illinois

 

 

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Springfield, Davenport,  Paducah or Evansville to St. Louis, Galesburg, Bloomington Normal, or Chicago. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Chicago CTAPets are permitted if secured in an enclosed carrier, do not take up seats, do not block aisles or doorways, and do not disrupt other passengers.
Chicago METRASmall pets are permitted in enclosed carriers on non-peak weekday trains (arriving in Chicago before 6:31 a.m. and after 9:30 a.m. and departing Chicago before 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m.). Pets are also permitted on all weekend trains but may be refused on overcrowded trains or during special events.
South Shore LineSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Indiana

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Indianapolis. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
South Shore LineSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
IowaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
KansasAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Newton. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
KentuckyAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services through to Nashville. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
LouisianaAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting service from Shreveport to Jackson. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
New Orleans StreetcarSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
MaineAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services through to Orono. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Maryland

 

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services between Ocean City and Grantsville. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Maryland MARCPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Baltimore MetroPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
MassachusettsAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Boston. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Massachusetts Bay MBTA Commuter RailNon-service dogs are not permitted during rush hour. Other small pets must be kept in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Massachusetts Bay MBTA Subway
CapeFLYERDogs must be leashed at all times.
MichiganAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services between Hancock, Sault Ste. Marie, Gaylord, Cheboygan, Detroit, and Chicago. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Minnesota

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Duluth to La Crosse. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Minneapolis MetroPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
MississippiAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Jackson or Biloxi. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Missouri

 

 

AmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Kansas City StreetcarPets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
MontanaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
NebraskaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
NevadaAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Las Vegas or Reno. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
New HampshireAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Boston to Littleton or Berlin.

Acela route from Boston to Washington permits pets at weekends and holidays only. For other mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.

New Jersey

 

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Atlantic City. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
New Jersey TransitSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Port Authority Trans-HudsonSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
New MexicoAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from El Paso and Santa Fe. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
New York

 

 

 

AmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Long Island RailroadSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Metro North RailroadDogs up to 65 pounds are permitted but are not allowed on seats.
New York SubwaySmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
North CarolinaAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Wilmington or Morehead City. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
North DakotaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
OhioAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Toledo, Dayton, or Columbus. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Cleveland RTAPets are permitted in a secure pet carrier and must not weigh more than 25 pounds.
OklahomaAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Oklahoma City. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Oregon

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Ontario, Portland, Crescent City, and Astoria. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Portland TriMetPets are permitted in a closed carrier.
Pennsylvania

 

 

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Philadelphia or Pittsburgh. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Philadelphia SEPTA (trolley/trains)Pets are permitted in a closed carrier that must fit on the passenger’s lap.
New Jersey TransitSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
PATCO SpeedlineSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Rhode IslandAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
South CarolinaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Tennessee

 

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Nashville. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Nashville’s Music City Commuter RailSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Memphis MARTA Street TrolleyUndisclosed.
Texas

 

 

 

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Houston or Dallas. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Houston METRORailSmall pets are permitted providing they are caged properly.
Dallas DARTSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Dallas M-Line TrollyDogs must be on a leash or in a pet carrier.
Dallas Tre Commuter RailSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
El Paso StreetcarSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
UtahAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake City FrontRunnerSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Salt Lake City TRAXSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
VermontAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Virginia

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Washington, DC, Virginia Beach, or Blacksburg. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Virginia Railway Express (VRE)Small pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
Washington

 

AmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from Seattle, Spokane, or Portland. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
Seattle Sound Transit’s Link light railSmall pets are permitted in a secure, enclosed carrier.
West VirginiaAmtrakFor mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.
WisconsinAmtrakNot permitted on Thruway connecting services from St.Paul- Minneapolis. For mainline services, see Amtrak policy above.

Pet Carriers

Pet Friendly Airports
Image Credit: Shutterstock.com

When looking for the perfect pet carrier, there a few things you should consider.

Weight of the Carrier and Your Pet

Amtrak and some other train operators have weight restrictions that are usually the weight of your pet and the carrier combined. If your pet is on the heavier side, you’ll need to find a lightweight, soft carrier that is also robust enough to accommodate the weight of your pet.

Size

Choosing the correct size of carrier for your pet is an important decision. Too big and your pet could move around, making it difficult to balance and carry. Too small and it would be uncomfortable for your pet, restricting space to stand up or stretch. As a rule of thumb, your pet carrier should be around 1.5 times the size of your pet.

Ventilation

Traveling on a train can be hot at times, so it’s advisable to choose a pet carrier that has mesh sides to allow airflow to keep your faithful friend cool.

Material

Owners have the choice between hard and soft shell pet carriers, and the decision will depend entirely on your circumstances and preference. Hardshell carriers are more robust, provide more protection, and are easier to keep clean; whereas, soft carriers can offer more comfort, are lighter, and easier to store.

What About Large Pets?

As you can see from the table above, most train operators stipulate that only “small pets” may be carried on board, so train travel is unfortunately not yet widely accessible to larger animals.

However, some passengers do try to bend the rules of certain operators such as the New York Subway that states “No person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.”

Final Thoughts

Over the years, there’s been controversy over the number of pet-related deaths during transit in both the cabin and cargo hold of an airplane; in fact, we did a whole study on the best airlines for pets for that exact reason. Traveling on a train with your pet can be a more relaxed and safer mode of transport for your pet.

Some pets can struggle with the pressure from an airplane’s increased altitude, causing issues with breathing. In fact, this has caused some airlines to prohibit the hold transportation of snub-nosed breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs.

If you’ve got a small pet that you would like to travel with you, train travel is the ideal mode of transport, being relatively cheap and safe. Looking for more information on traveling with your 4-legged friend? Explore our ultimate guide on traveling with your pet.


FAQ

Are pets allowed on trains?

In the United States, pets are allowed on some trains and it is becoming increasingly common that pets are permitted. Amtrak allows pets up to 20 pounds on many routes (with restrictions on certain routes). The table above lists details of pet policies for train operators within each state.

How do you travel with a cat on a train?

To take your cat on a train, they should be inside a suitable pet carrier that is well ventilated and leak-free. This should be placed under your seat or kept on your lap. Ensure you have plenty of water and are able to stop for relief breaks if the journey is long.

How do you travel with a dog on a train?

When traveling with a dog on a train, they should be inside a suitable pet carrier that is well ventilated and leak-free. This should be placed under your seat or kept on your lap. Ensure you have plenty of water and are able to stop for relief breaks if the journey is long. Your dog should not cause any disruption to other passengers, otherwise you may be asked to disembark.

Can dogs travel on trains in the U.S.?

Some U.S. train operators, such as Amtrak, allow pets on board. Dogs up to 20 pounds are permitted to ride on many routes (some restricted routes apply) providing they remain within an enclosed pet carrier for the duration of the journey.

Amar Hussain

About Amar Hussain

Amar was born and raised in England, UK, embarked on an 11 country round the world gap year after graduation and then became well and truly hooked. The first gap year inspired a second which ended up being a 23 country down-the-world trip from Canada to Antarctica. Since then Amar has endeavored to turn his gap year into a ‘gap life’ and has spent the last 10 years traveling the 7 continents.

Disclaimer: Any comments listed below are not from the bank advertiser, nor have they been reviewed or approved by them. No responsibility will be taken by the bank advertiser for these comments.

Any thoughts or questions? Comment below!

Email needed if you'd like comment updates. It will NOT be published.

Advertiser Disclosure

Many of the credit card offers that appear on this site are from credit card companies from which we receive financial compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). However, the credit card information that we publish has been written by experts who know these products inside out, and what we recommend is what we would (or already) use ourselves. This site does not include all credit card companies or all available credit card offers that are on the market. For more information on our advertisers, see here.