Recently, I had to make the short trip on Amtrak from Union Station in Washington, D.C. to Penn Station in New York City, and as always, brought my emotional support dog, Quito, along with me. Upon checking him in with customer service using standard paperwork issued by my doctor, I was abruptly denied the clearance to get on the train, and told that Amtrak does not accept emotional support animals like Quito.
For many people, traveling can spark a lot of emotions, frustration and anxiety, particularly around the holidays. That's why I started this petition to ask Amtrak to allow emotional support animals like Quito on their trains. Please sign on.
I was eventually forced to put the dog in a carrier, which was to go underneath my seat. My dog was miserable and unaccustomed to being shoved into a dark, unfamiliar enclosure, and proceeded to cry throughout the entirety of our travel time. Of course, I took him out of the carrier and let him sit quietly and unbothered on my lap. All was well until the train conductor came over to us and yelled at me repeatedly for not having the dog in the carrier. The whole ordeal caused a commotion, and was likely a major nuisance to other train passengers, which only fueled my anxiety more. By the time the conductor finally walked away, I was holding back tears.
I have personally flown with my emotional support dog a countless number of times — ranging anywhere from quick, half-hour flights to cross-country trips. The majority of the time, my flying experiences are completely free of heckling by the airline staff. My ESA is a six-pound dog who causes no disturbance, is well-behaved and sits quietly on my lap during flights.
The logic here simply didn't make sense. Had my dog, in typical fashion, accompanied me on the train as an ESA, he would have sat still and quietly in my lap, to the point where other train passengers likely would not have even noticed him.
The Air Carrier Access Act, which was established in 1986, has helped to ease the stress of passengers with travel anxiety and other emotional issues by allowing them to fly alongside their animal companions, and prohibiting commercial airlines from discriminating against people with disabilities. It's extremely disturbing to learn that ground travel doesn't have a similar protective act.
I am deeply troubled that Amtrak and the train conductor took such an issue with my emotional support animal. Just because someone suffers from an emotional issue that is internally-facing, rather than an external physical ailment, does not mean that they deserve to be discriminated against.
That is why, on behalf of all passengers who travel with an animal for emotional support, I'm calling for Amtrak to take a hint from the airlines and fully implement the right for travelers to bring emotional support animals onboard.