Dogs on transit: Push for TransLink to change policy

Citing high gas prices and the increase in people who brought home pets during the pandemic, a petition is urging Metro Vancouver’s transit authority to loosen its limits when it comes to allowing animals on board.

A Change.org petition to TransLink’s board of directors outlines what the current policy is and what changes are being advocated.

“We – the dog owners of Greater Vancouver – are demanding a change,” the petition reads.

“With the rising costs of car ownership and gas prices, more people are opting to ride public transit. However, dog owners are limited in where they can go with the current TransLink policies. Even those few car-hailing services and taxis that allow pets charge an additional pet fee for our furry friends to travel with us.”

Currently, pets of any kind are allowed only if they are “kept in small, hand-held, fully enclosed carriers that fit in your lap, with no part of the animal exposed,” according the website.

Only one pet per person is allowed, carriers can not have sharp edges or be placed on the floor near doors and drivers have discretion to refuse boarding “because of a risk to other passengers or because of limited space,” the policy continues.

The limits on carrier size, the petition says, mean those with animals that are larger don’t have the option of bringing them along. In addition, the requirement that the animal must be fully contained eliminates the possibility of bringing a dog along in a backpack or tote bag with its head exposed.

The demand being made of TransLink is to adopt a similar policy to that of New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which does not strictly define the size or type of carrier allowed.

“No person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers,” that policy reads.

The petition notes that in Toronto, for example, leashed dogs are allowed on transit at non-peak hours. However, it is not asking TransLink to go that far.

In 2017, the petition notes, the Vancouver Park Board issued a report recommending the transit authority “explore opportunities to allow greater access to dogs on public transit” as a way to encourage people and their pets to make use of municipal parks. The TransLink board did review the policy the following year, but decided to keep it as-is.

The petition also references the pandemic pet boom, during which working remotely and social distancing led to an increase in the number of people who sought out companion animals.

According to a 2021 survey from Abacus Data, roughly 900,000 Canadians who did not already have a pet got one during the first year of the pandemic. In BC, the same survey found 49 per cent of households reported having pets.

In a statement, a spokesperson for TransLink said the policy does allow for backpacks and bags as long as they are enclosed.

“It is reflective of pet policies in place at many other transit agencies in Canada and the US,” the email says.

A link to information about the 2018 review of the policy was also provided.

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