Amtrak to test allowing pets on trains

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Amtrak is planning to test allowing passengers to bring their pets on board trains.

The company announced Monday that it will conduct a six-month test program on trains on Zephyr and Carl Sandburg routes in Illinois.

Passengers will be required to pay a $25 surcharge in addition to the price of their train tickets to carry their pets on trains, Amtrak said. The animals will have to weigh less than 20 miles to be allowed on board.

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Amtrak CEO Joe Boardman said the pilot program was being conducted by the Illinois Department of Transportation, which pays to help Amtrak operate  intrastate trains under an agreement to boost short-distance rail service.

"Amtrak is supportive of accommodating pets on trains, and through direct collaboration with the Illinois Department of Transportation and a working group led by U.S. Rep. Jeff Denham of California, we are optimistic a plan can be reached to address the needs and concerns of all our passengers," Boardman said in a statement.

Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann Schneider said officials in her state were glad to house Amtrak's test of the impact of allowing pets on trains. 

“We in Illinois welcome this exciting new pilot program, which is something that has been suggested by train passengers,” Schneider said in a statement. “By listening to and accommodating all passengers, I am hopeful we can create a long-term policy that allows pets on trains and makes traveling on Amtrak even more appealing to a wider audience.”

Amtrak said the Illinois test program would run from May 5 to November 2.

The company previously only allowed service animals such as seeing-eye dogs to come on its trains.