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Robb Wilson

Amtrak fans in the House of Representatives have finally stumbled onto that age-old marketing principle: “If you want people to use a service, fill it with animals.” (I assume that’s what they teach in marketing school, and if they don’t they should.) Four House members have introduced a bill that would require all Amtrak trains to have at least one car that accommodates animals. Technically all the animals will be in kennels, but I’m going to cling to my fantasy of being whisked through the countryside in a pile of cats and dogs.

The idea behind the bill is that people would make more use of Amtrak if they could bring their furrier family members. “My dog, Lily, is part of our family and travels with us to and from California all the time,” said Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), one of the bill’s cosponsors. “If I can take her on a plane, why can’t I travel with her on Amtrak, too?” Wait, there are Republicans in on this thing? Wait, THREE of the cosponsors are Republicans? OK, well then maybe the idea behind the bill is that Amtrak is a liberal commie conspiracy preventing our freedoms of bringing dogs wherever we want. That’s fine by me, as long as the end result is that pets can go by train.

Of course, there are rules. (This is Congress!) You’d have to pay extra for your buddy, and you’d have to be taking a trip of less than 750 miles, and your animal would have to stay in a kennel or crate, and the kennel would have to conform to Amtrak carry-on luggage rules. That means people like me, who have 90-pound dogs, would still be SOL. However, there is NOTHING in the bill — I checked! — that prevents you from sitting in the animal car when you don’t have an animal along. And there is nothing that explicitly prevents you from heartily bribing dog-toting passengers to let Fido out of his kennel to give you kisses. Which means my dream of riding the rails covered in dogs might come true after all.