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Dogs on Transit

 

 

I was in attendance at a meeting last week regarding Dogs on Transit. It was an item on the agenda of the deciding board authority in Victoria BC.

 

On the agenda, along with other items of business were three presenters on the topic of Dogs on Transit, as well as the staff recommendation to the committee on a presentation that had been made in September, asking to change the policy to allow dogs also on leash (with guidelines) as well as those in kennel that can fit on ones lap (already allowed).

 

All three presenters were not in favour of making any change to the policy on dogs on transit.

 

The staff then made their recommendation to leave the policy as is; allowing only small dogs (or pets) that can be carried in a container/kennel and sit on persons lap, and make no changes at this time.

 

 

They presented the results of an on line survey, a survey done with Transit bus drivers, some statistics from other cities, mostly ones that did not allow dogs on transit and some that did, and some information from a dog trainer.

 

The social media survey result showed a small percentage higher for those that were against change in the policy.

The survey with the staff, in particular with the drivers, was by a high percentage, against making any change in the existing policy.

 

The statistics and information on various cities in Canada (maybe North America) was basically a list of the cities that do not allow dogs, followed by those that do.

 

The presenter (board or staff person) also mentioned the training program the Canadian Good Neighbour (the one that I had mentioned in my presentation to Trans Link in October 2014). He offered that this program was one that any dog owner could take their dog through, and it provided training.  As I understood it he was implying that a trained and identified dog would be more welcome on transit.

 

I believe he was also saying that the dog behavior specialist thought that a well trained dog, perhaps one that had completed a program such as the CGN, would be suitable to ride buses.

 

The first presenter was a person with a working dog with her. Her opposition to any change was based on her fear for the safety of her own service dog, concerned that untrained dogs would attack it or not know how to behave around it.

 

The next presenter was one with severe allergies including pet dander. She stated that she would not be able to ride transit at all if more dogs were allowed.

 

The third presenter was on the phone and I did not hear much. I thought though that her main concern was equal access to transit, and she also was not in favour of making any change to the existing policy.

 

A board member asked or stated that while based on the gathered facts she would support the motion to leave the policy as is, she felt that further information should be gathered from places where they have had a successful dog policy in place for years- such as Toronto, or Seattle.

 

The vote was for keeping the policy as is, yet the motion that was passed included I believe that further information would be gathered from other cities that have the successful policy, and from the neigbour city Vancouver, as it is also looking at the same issue, and as I understood it said they would welcome any information that Vancouver put forward and would look at their decision again based on any further useful information.

 

 

After the meeting the media interviewed the allergist speaker and the person with the seizure alert dog. The also asked and interviewed me.

 

Both the allergist and the seizure alert dog person agreed that there was room for a compromise and were very understanding of the reasons that some dog owners might have for wanting to take their companion/pet dogs with them on transit. They were in fact not really opposed to it.

 

A board member had pointed out that there had been an emphasis in this meeting on the report against, yet no mention of the valid reasons why the two presenters (the group  representing seniors, and an individual representing herself ( that was me) who presented in September wanted to have  Transit extend their policy to allow leashed dogs. She reminded the group of the valid reasons put forward by these people, for wanting to allow dogs on transit.

 

 

My comments

 

I am Margaret Halsey, artist, writer and business consultant.

 

I was one of the two presenters on this topic in September, to Transit. The other group was a group representing a senior population and some with mobility issues.

 

I also presented on this topic to Translink in October 2014.

 

 

 

I had an opportunity to talk to both presenters that were present at this Commission meeting on February 18th 2015.   They both thought that as long as their situation was taken care of that there could likely be a reasonable compromise.  I suggested such a compromise might be to allow pet dogs only on specific buses. Other options might be to have them in a separate section, or to allow no other dogs on a bus if a service dog was present.

 

It was my feeling that some or many of the board/committee might have wanted to say yes to the change, yet based on the data they had gathered, and the presenters of that day, they had to decide to leave the policy as is for now..

 

Yet in my opinion they clearly left a door open and are looking to Vancouver to come up with clear reasons why they should agree to change the policy. That is my interpretation.

 

Also of note, the presenters in September by the Grannies and by me did not have as much emphasis on the conditions that I had mentioned in the Trans Link board meeting.

 

When I presented to BC Transit, I did mention dogs should be leashed and suggested a muzzle, and only ride on non peak times with a limit of dogs on each bus. The Granny group also mentioned the same.

 

When I presented to Trans Link I had a more complete list of conditions which included- dogs must pass an appropriate training program, wear some identification indicating so, and or a jacket to indicate so and to keep back the pet dander (the allergy trigger), wear a muzzle, be on a leash, be in a specific section of the bus, limit per bus, paying a fare, etc.

 

I did also, after my presentation on October to Trans Link, send this important information to BC Transit as I thought it might be very useful to emphasize in the survey. However the emphasis on the survey still seemed to be only- to increase the policy to allow leashed dogs. .

 

It seem to me that B C Transit were deciding on this issue based on – should we allow more dogs on busesthose on leashes and not in kennels that sit on lap in particular. They were not putting as much emphasis on the very important conditions and it sounded to me like they were just including all dogs.

 

It seemed clear to me at the end that they would be open to listen to a plan that could meet the needs of everyone.

 

 

I know that Trans Link has started their own research and I hope also that they will remember that in such cases it is common for those against a policy to speak up more than those for, and the result could be slanted.

 

I believe there is a solution that meets all needs and I presented such to Trans Link in my October presentation. 

 

If dogs that are wearing a city (or jurisdiction or district) license tag, trained and under the control of their owner, wearing a cage style muzzle (for the dogs protection) wearing a jacket that would keep back the dander, and also indicate that they are an approved trained transit rider (with the transit logo) and were riding with their owners in  a separate section of the bus or train, or on designated trains or buses, this would allow the safety and comfort of all transit riders and workers.

Bus and transit staff and everyone would be able to clearly see by the jacket and or training identification tag, that this is an approved to ride dog.

The designated or separate section would provide the safety and comfort needed for those that have pet allergies or fears, or those that have a service dog if they do not feel comfortable in the presence of others with their dog.

 

While one cannot eliminate all possibilities of pet dander, as it is in the air and on the clothes of anyone who owns a dog, or has touched one, without eliminating all riders who have owned or touched or been close to a dog from riding, a dog wearing a jacket cuts the chance of the dander to be free in the air.

 

I remain optimistic that once Trans Link does its research that both groups will be able to see that there is a compromise and solution that meets the needs of all transit users, including those dog owners that want to travel on buses and commuter trains with their pet and companion dogs.

 

Who are these dog owners and why do they want to travel on transit with dogs.

 

No, it is not all dog owners and all dogs. Yet there are many groups with valid reasons for wanting to take transit with their dog. For them, (and I am one of them) being able to take their dogs on transit would make a significant difference to them.

 

Owners with medium or large dogs that want to get somewhere with their dog that is easily accessible on transit- even if they have a car. They prefer to ride transit.  These may be people who are aware of and conscious of the benefits of leaving their car at home- especially if it is transporting only one person, and one dog, on a route accessible to transit.

 

Those who do not have a vehicle or any other means of transport to get out of their own neighborhood with their dog- to take the dog to a dog park, to visit those in hospitals with a pet visitation program, take the dog to work, and various other places dogs are welcome.

 

Those that have a pet dog that is very close to a service dog, in that it is a true companion and support dog. This would be people who like to take their dogs with them to any place a dog is allowed. The dog actually helps them in many ways.  

 

Seniors and others with mobility challenges that want to take their dog to a safe off leash area where it can run and play, as are not physically able to walk it very far and give it enough exercise any more.

 

Those travelling to and from Vancouver who do not want to take their car on the ferry. Dogs can ride in the pet area of the ferry, and in the small bus that takes you to/from the parking lot- if you have driven that far, but once one is at the other side, the only way to get into the city is by an expensive ($80 or more) taxi ride, or have a friend pick you up.

 

Those that have chosen to live in one of the many communities that are so close to transit, that now go almost everywhere they can, by transit. They are dog owners too. There are so many communities that have sprouted up around sky train stations here, and while they all have areas around them where one can walk a dog, these people also go out to visit friends, and go to many places where their dog is welcome, and they need a means to get it there.

 

One might ask any of the dog owners that ride the transit now with their small dogs in carriers- why do you ride transit with your dog?  Those that have larger dogs may want to ride for the very same reasons.  

If small dogs are allowed, why not all, if trained and under control.

 

 

 

A friend of mine, not a dog owner, said to me, would you think a Great Dane or a Mastiff, or a Pit Bull should ride. My answer was that it was not about the size, or the breed. I have met some gentle giants in the Mastiff and the Great Dane, and the Pit Bull will be as well behaved as his or her owner has trained them. It is about the behavior of the dog, and the human. Those that can train their dogs well, and know their dogs would do well on transit, would easily pass an entry training test. Those that did not would simply not be suitable.

 

 What about the room the big dog takes up though, he said. Well, yes, a good point, yet if a dog’s owner is paying a fare for a dog, then should its size matter? A large dog can sit itself in a surprising small place.

A dog such as this also takes up less room than many suitcases people take on transit, or travel buggy, or baby carriages, all very welcome on the transit as they should be.

 

 

If you have large dogs, have a vehicle, do not use transit or live near transit, and you can take your dog with you in your vehicle very easily, you likely will never want to use transit. If you have many dogs and you take them to a park where there will be covered in mud, you also will have a vehicle and will not use transit.

 

Yet you may be one of the many people who would benefit from it.

 

 

Transit is for all people, and some of those people have dogs they want or need to take with them.

 

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