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Amtrak expands pets-on-trains test

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Amtrak is expanding an experiment that will help determine whether pets are allowed on trains nationwide.

The passenger railroad announced Aug. 4 that it is adding the Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale route of the “Illini” and “Saluki” trains to a pilot project that allows travelers to bring pets on trips to and from Chicago and downstate Illinois. Small pets have been permitted between Chicago and Quincy on the “Illinois Zephyr” and “Carl Sandburg” trains since April, “with almost 20 small animals safely transported,” Amtrak said.

The railroad also announced that the test, which was scheduled to end in November, will be extended through April 26, 2015.

“This expanded pilot project will give us better information to develop a plan that meets the needs of our passengers,” said Amtrak President and CEO Joe Boardman.

Under the program, people traveling with pets must pay a $25 surcharge and make advance reservations. Ticketing and travel with pets can originate throughout the day in Chicago, Carbondale, Champaign and Galesburg. This service is also available during afternoon departures in Homewood and Naperville.

The pilot is limited to cats and dogs weighing up to 20 pounds, and the animals must be transported in airline-like carriers that are small enough to fit under a pet owner’s seat. Only one pet per passenger is allowed.

U.S. lawmakers have been urging Amtrak to start allowing companion animals on trains. The proposed Pets on Trains Act, introduced last year in Congress, would require Amtrak to develop a policy for people to travel with their pets. The measure has amassed about 40 co-sponsors.

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