Pet owners often consider their dogs and cats full-fledged family members, and Amtrak is embracing that by expanding a pilot program that allows passengers to bring their small pets onto trains running through New Jersey.

photodeti, ThinkStock

The initiative launched last October on the Northeast Regional line, which stops at New York Penn Station, Newark Penn Station, Newark Liberty International Airport, Metropark, Trenton, and 30th Street Philadelphia. USA Today reported last month that 4,600 riders have since traveled with their pets, with New York and Philadelphia registering as two of the top departure cities. Seeing those numbers come in, Amtrak decided in February to make the pet policy permanent.

"We've been very pleased to see (the program) has been very well-received by our passengers," said Craig Schulz, Amtrak spokesman. "It is something that we have heard from our passengers they've wanted, and we're very happy to make this service available."

The requirements are straightforward: A passenger's dog or cat must be contained in a carrier that fits underneath that person's seat on the train. Pet and carrier must weigh a combined 20 pounds or less. Riders need to make a reservation and pay an additional $25 fee, each way, to bring a pet on board.

"We have also extended and expanded the pilot program to include our weekend Acela service," Schulz said. Pets are additionally being permitted on long-distance Amtrak trains, for trips taking up to seven hours, under the same conditions.

Service animals continue to ride for free on Amtrak, as Schulz said they always have.

NJ Transit's standard policy is that "only service animals accompanying customers with disabilities or their trainers, police dogs and small pets in carry-on travel cases are allowed on-board NJ Transit trains."

Those same guidelines apply to NJ Transit buses and light-rail cars.

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Patrick Lavery is a news producer, reporter and anchor for New Jersey 101.5. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email

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