With all of the ways local, state and federal governments attempt to regulate, restrict and compel the pet industry, it is easy to overlook the times when proposed legislation has a positive effect on our business. As a result, we miss out on opportunities to contact elected officials to offer our support and build the kind of positive relationship that can be invaluable. The Pets on Trains Act of 2013 (HR 2066), introduced by Congressman Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), represents a great chance to engage Congress positively on behalf of the pet industry.
The Pets on Trains Act requires Amtrak to propose a pet policy that allows passengers to transport domesticated cats and dogs on trips less than 750 miles, with certain restrictions. Currently, only service animals are permitted on the railroad company’s trains and in stations. But Congress has the ability to impose this requirement because Amtrak operates with federal funds—your tax dollars—that they authorize in yearly budgets.
This legislation, modeled after the pet travel policies of several major airlines, would require pets to be transported in approved pet kennels that can be stowed as carry-on baggage or, where available, transported in temperature-controlled cargo areas to protect pet health. It would allow Amtrak to charge a fee for each animal, representing a new source of potential revenue. And it would make rail a viable travel option for pet owners across the country who would prefer not to leave their beloved animals behind.
For the pet industry, this bill is a great opportunity to stand shoulder to shoulder with pet owners and show our commitment to the human-animal bond and responsible pet ownership. Amtrak serves more than 500 stations in 46 states, so it is a safe bet that you and your customers will be affected by this change. And although our businesses can certainly benefit from sales of kennels, carriers and other travel-related products, the main value of this legislation is the parity it brings to travel options for pet owners.
The Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC) strongly supports this pro-pet legislation and has been working with Congressman Denham and his three original co-sponsors—Congressman Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), Congressman John Campbell (R-Calif.) and Congressman Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.)—to call attention to the bill in Washington and in national media. But we, as an industry, can and should do more to help promote the Pets on Trains Act locally.
To date, there are only 14 additional co-sponsors of this legislation, despite its broad appeal. They include:
• Hon. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.)
• Hon. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.)
• Hon. Jared Polis (D-Colo.)
• Hon. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.)
• Hon. Jim Moran (D-Va.)
• Hon. Mark Pocan (D-Wis.)
• Hon. Rick Crawford (R-Ark.)
• Hon. Nick Rahall (D-W.V.)
• Hon. Dina Titus (D-Nev.)
• Hon. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.)
• Hon. Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)
• Hon. Ed Perlmutter (D-Colo.)
• Hon. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.)
• Hon. Fred Upton (R-Mich.)
• Hon. Ed Royce (R-Calif.)
Is your representative on this list? Whether they are or not, you can take advantage of the Legislative Action Center on PIJAC’s website to let them know you’re paying attention. Visit capwiz.com/pijac/home, and click on the blue “Take Action” button in the section about Pets on Trains.
If your representative is not listed as a co-sponsor, use our system to send him or her a quick message and ask them to sign on. If they are already on board, take a moment to send a note of thanks and to express your support for their position. You can customize the subject line and body of your email right there on the page. Either way, your comment will be logged in the member’s office and will show up whenever you contact the office in the future—for example, to discuss another bill that would hurt your business.
Want to take things a step further? Consider educating your customers about this bill, which would improve their ability to travel with their pets, and encourage them to reach out as well. If you are a retailer, petitions at your registers are an easy way to add volume to your message, and when you submit them to your representative in batches, they allow you an opportunity to demonstrate your ability to reach a broad audience when you decide to take action.
If we, as an industry, can get in the habit of supporting pet-positive legislation when the opportunities arise, we will help our elected officials understand the kind of engaged, active constituents we are. Then, when the time comes to raise objections to harmful proposals, our concerns will be more likely to be taken seriously.
Mike Bober is vice president of government affairs for the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council. For more information on the Pets on Trains Act of 2013, PIJAC’s Legislative Action Center, or ways to take action locally, contact Bober via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.