GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KDVR) – The latest story of travelers having trouble getting to their destinations stems from a viral video of two women who were forced off an Amtrak train in Grand Junction, Colorado.
It happened after officials say their small dog — a Pomeranian — was disturbing other riders. The two women and their dog were headed to Chicago for Christmas.
Brent Bell took the video on Dec. 21.
“Don’t let this ruin your holidays, sweeties,” Bell tells the women from behind the camera, while recording the moment Grand Junction police officers escorted the women and their dog off the train. He began filming seconds after police approached the two.
“All this was over was a little bit of dog poop that they cleaned up fast and cleaned up immediately,” Bell said. These ladies were just shocked that this was the treatment that they were getting, that their holiday season was going to be interrupted,” he explained.
The train left Oakland, California, just days before Christmas, and was headed to Chicago with the two sisters and their Pomeranian on board. Amtrak said the dog “created a disturbance by repeatedly barking, urinating and defecating” on the train. Bell said he began recording because he knew he would be witness to an injustice.
“I’m tired of unfairness and I have a little, I guess, I have a place in my heart for little old ladies,” he said.
Bell himself is a dog trainer. He said he felt bad for the two women, especially because he knows how Pomeranians behave. Sometimes, he added, owners might want to keep the dog on their lap — like the women on the train did — to calm the dog.
One of the sisters spoke with Nexstar’s KDVR off-camera and said she picked up poop from the train, but it wasn’t her dog’s — she merely did it out of courtesy for the other riders, she claimed. She also said she was upset because the train’s conductor and others were targeting them the entire ride, and harassed one of them as they were going to the washroom.
Not long after the two were escorted off the train, the conductor asked Bell to put his phone away.
“You don’t have a choice, I can record the scenery,” Bell responded.
“I have every choice on this train, this is mine,” the conductor said.
“I even said it to the people in the car. ‘Hey, has anyone been bothered by this little teeny dog?’’’ Not one person spoke up,” Bell told KDVR in a Zoom interview.
Amtrak, however, released a statement claiming that “several nearby passengers” did request to be moved away from the dog because of the “noise and odor.”
Small dogs are usually allowed to accompany their owners on Amtrak voyages for a small fee, according to the company’s policy. But restrictions apply, based on the animal’s weight or the length of the journey.
Bell, however, claims there were other pets on the train that day.
KDVR reached out to Amtrak to confirm their policy on that specific train, as well as their criteria for removing passengers. As of Friday, Amtrak had not responded.
There is a GoFundMe started by Bell, online where it’s already raised over $500 for the two women.
Amtrak, police release statements
Both Amtrak and the Grand Junction police have released statements following the incident, with Amtrak refuting some of Bell’s claims, and the police confirming the women were assisted with their luggage and taxi services to a nearby bus station.
We apologize for the inconvenience and disruption to our passengers’ holiday travel on Dec. 21. Out of concern for all our customers on Train 6, two passengers were told to deboard after their dog created a disturbance by repeatedly barking, urinating, and defecating in the customer seating area. The dog’s owner was given multiple warnings about the dog being on the seat and was given advance notice about stops where dogs could be taken on walks. Several nearby passengers also asked to be moved because of the noise and odor.Kimberly Woods, Amtrak
The Grand Junction Police Department released the following narrative, as well:
On 12/22/22, at approximately 10:50 a.m., officers with the Grand Junction Police Department responded to a call from personnel with Amtrak, requesting assistance with removing a passenger and dog from a train at 300 S. 1st Street. A staff member from Amtrak stated that the dog was being aggressive with other passengers and had defecated in the train car. As a result, the owner of the dog was asked by Amtrak staff to exit the train and refused. When officers arrived on scene, two women exited the Amtrak train on their own with the dog. After Amtrak had the women removed from the train, Grand Junction Police officers assisted the women with their luggage into the station and called the taxi service to take the two women to the Greyhound Bus Station so they could get to their destination. No one was arrested or cited as a result of this incident. Please contact Amtrak for information about any additional travel arrangements.Grand Junction Police Department
The owner of the dog said Thursday night that Amtrak contacted her, apologized, and said she is welcome back on Amtrak trains with the dog.
Both women made it to Chicago for Christmas. They are expected to return to Oakland soon.