Cats and dogs have become the latest victims of Amtraks cutbacks in service.
Effective yesterday, the National Railroad Passenger Corp. stopped making reservations for pet transportation because of new government regulations that Amtrak said would have cost nearly $14 million in new equipment or facilities.
The regulations cited by Amtrak were drawn up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under the Federal Animal Welfare Atc of 1966 as amended last year. An Amtrak spokesman said his organization tried unsuccessfully to win an exemption from the rules.
Amtrak said the regulations would have required new heating or air-conditioning equipment for 200 baggage cars to handle pets, and construction of separate enclosed animal shelters at 300 rail stations, at a cost of $13.8 million.
Amtrak said it has been carrying about 200 dogs and cats a month, accounting for $158,400 in annual revenues that will be lost. However, Amtrak will continue to transport seeing eye dogs which accompany blind passengers and will honor reservations for carrying other pets made prior to yesterday.
Faced with the necessity of cutting back passenger trains to balance acticipated deficits in the coming fiscal year, Amtrak "does not have the $13.8 million needed to make the required changes for compliance with the regulations," the rail corporation said.
Southern Railway, which operates non-Amtrak passenger trains between Washington and New Orleans, also will stop transporting pets "in the interests of conformity" with Amtrak's new policy, a spokesman for the Washington firm said yesterday.