Heard on the Hill

Pooch-Loving Pols Seek to Fast-Track Pets on Trains Plan

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Reps. Jeff Denham, R-Calif., Michael G. Grimm, R-N.Y. and Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., brought out the big guns Wednesday — which is to say terribly photogenic little dogs — for yet another push to persuade Amtrak to let furry-footed friends ride the rails with their loved ones.

“It happens on planes all the time. So why not trains?” wondered Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council President Mike Canning. He portrayed the idea of keeping people and their pets together as a quality-of-life issue, particularly during the already stressful holiday travel season.

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Denham, right, and his dog, Lily. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Lead sponsor Denham, who also happens to serve as chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials, said he’d like to see his proposal signed into law early next year.

“We have opportunities to move this either as a stand-alone bill or  as part of the passenger rail re-authorization act,” Denham said.

Amtrak President and CEO Joseph Boardman pumped the breaks a bit in terms of immediate action.

“We’re going to work with the congressmen. But we also have to make sure we’re doing it the right way,” he told HOH. His most pressing logistical concerns include properly defining what qualifies as a “pet,” establishing uniform handling guidelines (crating sounds like it would work best) and ensuring that all participating animals are fully immunized and vaccinated.

Cohen, who lost his own dog, T-Bo, years ago, said he’d dealt with similar concerns while working in the Tennessee statehouse to hammer out landmark protections for pet owners. In that case, he lobbied to have a pet defined as a companion dog or cat; this time around, he can see adding size restrictions into the mix to help smooth things over with Amtrak.

Grimm, meanwhile, was just pleased to be in such inspiring company.

(Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

Grimm and his rescue dog, Sebastian, were at the presser. (Warren Rojas/CQ Roll Call)

“This coalition makes the world a little bit better place to live in,” he said, his rescue dog, Sebastian, clutched to his chest.