An article from Wellington yesterday that caught my attention.

A Wellington vet is suggesting the city council allow dogs on the city’s public transport network, to help make dogs more sociable, and people more comfortable around them.

Allan Probert told councillors on Monday, as he made an oral submission on the council’s Dog Policy review, that he would like to see the law around dogs liberalised, and dogs allowed on public transport as they are in Europe.

“It would help the awareness and the familiarity with dogs, as part of general everyday life.”

Probert agreed on Tuesday people who are afraid of dogs might not like coming across them on a busy bus or train, but said much of that fear relates to people not being familiar with dogs.

There could be a requirement to have dogs on a leash, but said muzzling all dogs in public was going over the top.

This raises the interesting question about whether dogs should be allowed on PT. As I see it there are both good and bad arguments for allowing animals on PT services.

Oddly enough the passengers on my bus yesterday afternoon included this guy who was in training.

Dogs on Buses

On the positive side it could help by remove one small barrier to urban living. As the city continues to develop more and more people will be living in denser urban dwellings while improving transport options will make it more viable for people to live without a car should they wish. But many people also consider pets an important part of their lives and currently cars can be the only option for important trips – such as to the vet. Allowing animals on PT services might just remove that barrier.

As mentioned in the article referenced, many cities do allow animals on PT services. One such city is London which has the following conditions of carriage.

16.1 You can bring an assistance dog with you without charge. You can also bring with you without charge any other dog or inoffensive animal, unless there is a good reason for us to refuse it (such as if the animal seems dangerous). You must keep it under control on a lead or in a suitable container, and must not allow it on a seat. Staff are not allowed to take charge of any animal.

16.2 If you bring an animal with you, for safety reasons you must carry it through automatic ticket gates. If you have an assistance dog, at stations where there is no wide automatic gate, you must ask a member of staff to open the manual gate to allow you to enter or leave a station.

16.3 If you bring an animal with you, you must use a staircase or lift where provided. If there is no staircase or lift and you need to use a moving escalator, you must carry your animal unless you have an assistance dog that has been trained to walk on moving escalators. If your animal is too large to carry, a member of staff will stop the escalator to allow it to travel on it when it is safe to do so (generally outside the rush hours and when the station is not busy).

Essentially animals are allowed but staff are allowed to refuse them if they want (except assistance dogs). That seems like a fairly reasonably stance and as the vet in the article points out, is one taken by many other cities in Europe. In some cases specific breeds are banned while others also require dogs to have a muzzle.

If we were ever to seriously consider such an idea I could also understand if there were rules around certain times they might be allowed i.e. not during the peaks – or in the case of trains, only to be allowed in the middle trailer carriage of a 3-car set.

Of course the downside to the idea is that there are a lot of people out there with either phobias or even allergies to certain animals. As such and depending on the severity, allowing animals on to PT services might result in those people being put off using PT. Although given that guide dogs are already allowed it’s not like you can guarantee your bus or train would never have an animal on board.

So what do you think, allow animals on PT or not and would allowing them change your view on using PT? Personally even if it were allowed I can’t see myself taking my dogs on the train or a bus.

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58 comments

  1. I would strongly object to dogs (apart from guide dogs) being allowed on buses. Buses are already crowded with human passengers, and having once stepped on a guide dog’s paw I know it is difficult to get out of a seat when there is a dog in the aisle. The problem with the London guidelines is that there is an element of judgement there – a dog “or inoffensive animal”. What if there’s an argument about what’s deemed inoffensive? If Gareth Morgan ever took a bus he would be highly offended to see a cat on a bus. And it would be hell to be stuck near a dog if you are allergic to them, or had a curious toddler with you. Finally, more dogs travelling to the CBD means more poo on the streets. No thanks.

    1. This blog post mentions the possibility of (a) prohibiting animals at peak times (when buses will be crowded), and (b) allowing drivers to refuse animals (except guide dogs and the like) entry at their discretion.

  2. Yes! When I didn’t have a car I had to walk all the way to the vet with my cat in its container bc I was unsure about the bus, not sure why a cat in a container would he an issue though? But didn’t risk not being able to get on.

    1. Yes I used to be walking distance to the vet for my cats (the virtues of mixed use medium density neighbourhoods) but now I can only drive them, if not take a bus.

    2. I’m lucky enough to live walking distance from my vet so I just carry my cats there, but I had to take one of my cats to Unitec for a specialist appointment or surgery a few times, and that would have been so much easier if I could have taken him on the bus or train instead of having to get a taxi.

      I reckon animals in carriers (cats, small dogs, other small pets) should definitely be allowed – reduces the chance of allergens getting everywhere and removes the danger of people standing on the pet or the pet getting loose. I’m less sure about large dogs, but maybe with muzzles and with similar rules to bikes, ie outside peak hours and at the train manager’s discretion.

    3. Another vote yes. The dogs on Ferry Boats works because they have a specific outside area. On the Trains there is an area for bikes. There should be one car only by the seats with the rubberised floor where the bikes go allocated for animals. And you should be able to take your dog. The dog will need a paid ticket. Possibly only on off peak trains if its an issue.

  3. I would be interested to hear from people who have lived in cities where this is allowed. Does it create many problems?

    1. I never noticed a single problem with animals on PT during 10 years in London. Homeless humans on the other hand…

  4. It really highlights a lot of issues in sole PT use in Auckland

    -lots of restrictions, most of which I could understand at peak but not other times except on very busy routes
    -very restrictive travel times
    -lack of destinations, nowhere near enough “rural” buses
    -no reliable payments system, I still have shitty experiences with HOP
    -weekends are treated like they are unimportant despite many people working or doing something. Sundays are even worse.

  5. After leaving Wellington and travelling Europe, and then moving to England, finding dogs on public transport was shocking and fantastic. Buses, trains, trams and metro welcome dogs mostly everywhere, and I’ve never seen or heard of them causing issues.
    Dogs are also welcome in a lot of cafes, pubs, shops, malls. I’ve seen a French Bulldog sitting on a pub stool in Belgium, a German Shepherd in the top floor of a department store in Munich, and dogs at their owners feet in cafes in my home town of Brighton.
    Dogs seem to be normalised and accepted, which is really nice.
    I hope Wellington makes an effort towards this.

    1. Agreed, I have similar experiences of dogs in Department stores in Italy and France as well as in UK pubs. I dont think there is an issue for off-peak, but I could understand peak time restrictions. Its a matter of self responsibility. For pet owners this is a major drawback to using PT – a lot of their recreational trips will be avec pooch.

  6. I fully support AT allowing dogs on trains at least. Having seen it in London it seems to work perfectly well and people don’t seem to have any issue with it – it’s just part of living in a city. If it’s managed well (either through regulations or conditions of carriage) then I cannot see how it would cause too many difficulties but would make things much easier for dog owners. Most people wanting to travel with their dog are unlikely to travel during peak times but want to be able to take their pets to events and around the city on the weekend. As the frequency of trains increase the trains are less likely to be as crowded so people aren’t jammed in like cattle and dog owners could move to particular parts of the carriage. I understand Rob Thomas was pushing this issue in 2013 but I don’t know how far he got.

  7. Off peak for sure (same as gold card). Why not? If London’s policy is adapted and sensible rules in place then let’s do it. I’m a CBD dweller and live easily without a car using PT, but if I had a dog I’d really struggle to be carless, particularly if I wanted to visit friends and family in surrounding suburbs.

    1. But people already take their dogs, I have seen a few non-guide dogs on buses. Didn’t cause any troubles and was fine. You would stop using PT over that? Would you stop going to parks or walking anywhere due to risk of a dog going near you? Didn’t realize there was so much phobia of animals in Auckland lol…

      Pretty sure it should be up to the owner to decide if there dog is suitably trained, if its not then I don’t think they would attempt it anyway.

      Guide-dogs in training can possibly be more risky than a well trained non-guide-dog.

  8. I generally prefer animals dead, cooked and on my plate. I can tolerate guide dogs on PT, but nothing else. I have a hard enough time with students who don’t shower, let alone animals. I have no problem with people having as many pets as they like, as I own a bull mastiff myself. However, as a courtesy to others I wouldn’t bring him on the bus with me and I expect others to extend the same courtesy.

  9. Animals are fine when confined to separate areas such as a special carriage on a train but on a bus NO. Restrictions on risky dogs and their owners are a MUST, Overall however it seems a lot of hassle for very little benefit.

  10. In Switzerland dogs are allowed on trains, but you must purchase a ticket for them (not free).

  11. I think it could work fine with good rules. Many people like my daughter had to rely on us transporting her by car for vet visits, weekend recreation etc. could make it off peak only and perhaps just trains to start. Back carriage only so those with allergies or who can’t stand a dog in their presence could avoid the end carriage. Guide dogs are pretty rare so not really an issue they may be on any carriage. Perhaps buses if it proves to work ok, maybe muzzles should be required. No biting or licking possible then & others would feel safer.

        1. Yeah I am aware of those, but it was raised before, I think there is a few challenges to implementing this on most of Auckland’s routes. Don’t really remember the argument as to why though.

          IMO can’t really think of any issues, just let the driver know and then attach your bike, and remind the driver when u leave so he doesn’t run you over or forget you need to take it off. Wouldn’t add much delay at all. I think the capacity of how many bikes it can take might become an issue though? Not sure. – But then the same question comes up with wheelchairs and prams, there is a limit to how many a bus can carry… but there doesn’t seem to be much issues that I’ve heard of.

  12. Anyone notice that there is a lot more dog shit on the streets in Europe? One giant pile that I trod in in the middle of a pedestrian crossing in the middle of Strasbourg springs to mind.

    Happy to share trains with dogs (or cats) so long as they aren’t dangerous (we seem to have a problem with that in NZ) and there is a reliable way to deal with their shit.
    I should remind everyone that Aucklands new trains are currently CARPETED.

    Maybe it’s time for our culture to adopt a ‘leave shoes at the door’ policy.

  13. Oooooooooooo…….rant follows.

    I’m not going to be using public transport in Auckland given I live in another island but the idea of dogs (non-guide dogs that is) on public transport doesn’t do it for me. I find that in general, dog owners don’t have any understanding or empathy for those that dislike dogs. I’d be a wealthy man if I had a dollar every time I heard the phrase “he like’s you” or “he’s just being friendly” as a dog attempts to jump up or lick my crotch. I understand that dog owners love their animals but in return they don’t seem to understand that I see their dog as a filthy animal that has probably licked or had a go at eating it’s own excrement in the last few hours and is now trying to spread that to my hand.

    The other issue is one of danger. I grew up with farm dogs and even the most mild mannered ones at some point would snap or lash out without any apparent reason. It seemed to be the whole thing of the dogs being soft and cuddly until they weren’t and someone (or in this case something like a sheep) got hurt. Would public transport staff be able to identify this behaviour before it happens? Unlikely I would suggest.

    Instead, I would like to see dog ownership as being much the same as smoking. I have no problem with you doing it as long as it doesn’t have any impact on others around you. The only way I can see this happening is banning dogs from places where there is no space to buffer others from them (like public transport and busy public spaces) and requiring dogs to be under control (read on a leash) in other public places.

    Rant over.

  14. Sadly the losers we have a n Auckland would drive passengers back to cars very quickly if they are allowed to bring their putbulls etc on the trains. They would use them as intimidatory tools, thefts and assaults would rise. No thanks.

  15. I didn’t realise they weren’t allowed. Coming from the UK where it is allowed it didn’t even cross my mind that it wouldn’t be. I have never seen or heard of any incident or inconvenience arising from an animal on PT in the UK. It’s perfectly normal to see someone there with a dog at their feet.

    I don’t feel very strongly about it, but it feels like it would help to allow it in terms of normalising PT. i.e. it’s not a restrictive services with lots of rules, it’s just a normal part of life.

    I’m pretty sure dogs are allowed on ferries in Auckland.

  16. One word answer – NO. This was proposed by a few when we did a complete review of the dog bylaw a decade ago under the old Auckland City but they were well outnumbered by opposing voices. While many dogs are well trained and well behaved in public, there are many who are not – and yet others who may or may not be but who can tell when invited to stand next to one in a crowded bus or train. There was also the business of dog droppings being trodden underfoot and (partly at least) carried on the soles of shoes into offices, shops and homes – the smell of even a small trace of fresh dog shit can be very penetrating, quite apart from the cost of cleaning floor coverings. The hearings panel, of which I was a member, was unanimous in rejecting this idea, along with dogs in cafes, etc.

    1. “rejecting this idea, along with dogs in cafes”

      I find it abhorrent that the council sees it fit to tell private businesses what their customers are allowed to bring on their premises.

      1. Yeah in pets in carriers I do not see ANY issue. Yet AT are not very clear with this on their website. The only potential impact is perhaps noise the animal might make? But can’t be worse then the loud tasteless/ear-bleeding rap music that morons keep blasting every day.

        Many people are not walking distance to vet and taxi would probably cost the same as the vet.

        Again makes us more reliant on private vehicles.

  17. In Switzerland they are allowed, but with a (very cheap) ticket. I did find them somewhat off-putting, as they usually blocked the aisles and normally required more space than two passengers. Also, once you allow them on, the dog lobby wants to push for the same rights for their pets as for children, so that the good policies to encourage youngsters on public transport often get attacked.
    Small dogs or cats that fit into small containers can be carried free of charge in Switzerland and I never had any problems with them. Also, about half of the large dogs on Swiss public transport are now scrubby “gang dogs”, whose owners do not care one bit if their pets get in people’s way.
    I generally prefer large dogs over the tiny ones, but not on public transport.

  18. I’m living temporarily in London and using trains and buses. Every day.I see people with dogs on transport It’s not a problem just part of life in a city where car ownership is very low

  19. Interesting topic since just the other day we agreed to dog-sit a puppy griffen over the weekend (looks like a cross between a pug and a chiahuahua, but uglier….) . My wife and I hardly use our cars now, have got our young kids fit enough to pull 5kms walking a day if needs be, and have almost entirely switched to walking and buses or trains at all times. So it was all laughter and light for the weekend’s plans until we realised we couldn’t take the dog with us on the bus to where we were planning on going. It then dawned us that our plans to have a dog of our own are impacted by not being able to take pets on public transport. All of a sudden it was quite a restrictive issue. You can’t have any muppet getting onto a cross-town with their two wolf-hounds can you?! And those chihuahua can be be nasty ankle biters, literally. So we started thinking through what might work, eg if you can’t carry it in your lap, then it pays a fare like a passenger, and maybe even have special AT HOP cards that are issued based on whatever cross-checks are sensible (eg proof of shots, registration of dogs etc). Our main pet at the moment is a small blue parrot – can’t take that on the bus either, and while not a lap-parrot, it’s certainly a shoulder parrot so we figured it wouldn’t need a HOP card or need to be registered. So, by the end of that discussion the wine bottle was empty and we moved onto even more esoteric subjects….

    1. A smart mouthed talking parrot would certainly be an interesting thing to see on a bus or train & could provide a lot of amusement.

      1. It’s the wolf-whistling that gets me in trouble when we’re out in public… luckily I can blame it on the bird (or my wife).

  20. Yes if they have to pay if taking up room makes sense. You would certainly want to run it as a trial in Auckland if it was to be considered. Other ways are to make it very restrictive requiring an owner or pet licence to be able to ride showing good ownership skills & knowledge (ie pick up your poop, don’t let dogs lick others because they like you, have to be flea treated etc). In this way only those that really need to have this ability to travel with pets would bother going to the hassle & would keep the loser owners away.

  21. Service dogs are less likely to trigger a phobia or allergy than non-service dogs because they are extremely well-trained: they aren’t going to invade another person’s space in public.

    I’m strongly opposed to non-service dogs and other pets being allowed on public transport, even though being able to take the cat to the vet on the bus would make it a bit easier for us (one-car household) (poor other bus passengers being subjected to siamese meows of distress!) I’ve seen how badly people let their dogs behave at the park where I can at least get away if I want (never on a leash, poop everywhere, owner has to physically grab the dog to gain control of it, dog runs up to strangers). I am less opposed to small pets in cages being transported – they would tend to be mostly cute luggage, but think that it is easier to maintain the same rule for all pets.

  22. As has been pointed out, this is a wider cultural issue, not just a PT one. In European cities dogs are generally allowed just about anywhere – shops, restaurants, buses, trains – but here we don’t have any of that. Whether that’s good or bad is a moot point, but that’s the way it is, and dogs on PT is just part of a much wider issue. I now can’t imagine dogs in restaurants, but being dog-friendly is my Scottish family’s major criterion when choosing a place to eat.

    I’ve taken dogs on buses and trains in Britain, with no issues – except that in those days dogs had to go on the top deck of double-deck buses with the smokers and were charged a child’s fare, and getting up and down stairs was a bit of a doggy issue. Without the ability to take a dog on PT, Benji would never have been by train to the seaside, nor would Shep gone for a long clifftop walk in Scotland followed by a drink in the pub and a bus home.

    One other aspect is that this was raised with Wellington City Council, which has no control over PT. WCC has already funded reduced bus fares and is considering doing it again, and a mayoral candidate has promised reduced fares for students and a fares freeze. These are of course GWRC responsibilities, but that body seems to be being considered increasingly marginal in one of its core activities.

    1. “Whether that’s good or bad is a moot point, but that’s the way it is, and dogs on PT is just part of a much wider issue. I now can’t imagine dogs in restaurants, but being dog-friendly is my Scottish family’s major criterion when choosing a place to eat.”

      This is true, but there is a difference between individual businesses having their own dog policy, and PT, which is a fundamental way to travel around the city. (Although based on Graeme Easte’s comment above, it sounds like the council see fit to stick its nose into the policys of individual businesses).

      1. True, but acceptance of dogs in the UK is up to each individual bus/train operator (except in London, where TfL specifies it), so the analogy is pretty close. The cultural point is that operators are not required to carry dogs, but it would basically be unthinkable not to allow that there.

  23. I don’t know what the official rule is, but I see dogs on the trains here in Melbourne on almost daily basis so is very common. Never seen them on trams or buses unless it’s a guide dog. Usually they ones I do see on the train are clean and well behaved, so never seen it as an issue. They usually just sit on the floor by the owners feet.

  24. In theory dogs on trains seems normal. They are closer to ferries in capacity, and you could limit them to one carriage, like they do (or used to) bikes. On buses perhaps not. There are some scary dogs out there, but usually the owners are scarier and we can’t keep them off public transport!

    1. True…but you don’t need both of them. It’s a great idea, but the few will wreck it for the many, Imagine: standing on a train a 5 year old face to face with a stressed dog being “socialised”. Just a matter of time.

  25. Definitely on trains lrt and ferries. Unfortunately our bus aisles are usually too narrow for dogs. Maybe in containers only on buses could work. Pretty sure that we took a dalmatian on the bus in the UK when I was a kid.

    1. Our dog-free bus aisles are the same width as the UK’s doggy ones, so it’s a cultural issue rather than a physical one

  26. No objections here to well-behaved dogs accompanying considerate and respectful dog owners. Unfortunately……many dog owners don’t fit that description and their dogs suffer the consequences….including bad behaviour, lack of discipline and just the simple risk peeing and pooping on the train. For example, a young dog under about 9 months WILL frequently “leak” when excited……and the rest of us just should not have to be there for it and hear the owner say “He’s just a puppy!”.

    I don’t care. Maybe a dog owner can apply to have THEIR dog allowed on the trains and pay a fee to have the dog checked for behaviour by people whose job it is to do that. I’d go for that. As at the start, no problem with good dogs accompanying good dog owners. If we can’t tell which is which……then no dogs. Please.

    Scenario: Gang members on the train taking their pitties out for the day, Because they can (“That guy over there has HIS dog, Dawg!”…and which minimum wage train security guard is going to get in the way?

    Granted…this could happen now….but now it isn’t a matter of discretion except in very limited cases,

  27. I suspect this policy would have a net negative impact on patronage. It would unfairly exclude those with phobias and strong allergies – whose rights to take public transport should take precedence over pet owners life choices and convenience.

    1. The carriage of peanuts should be banned also. Many people have strong allergies to peanuts.

      And i have a phobia of men with mullets, we should ban those also.

      1. Do mullets and peanuts injure 10,000 New Zealanders a year?

        Possibly having peanuts open should be banned, it is in many schools and aeroplanes, and the inconvenience would be almost non-existant.

        And you know, even if mulletophobia was as close to as a common as phobias of dogs (many people have these phobias as a result of being mauled), people with mullets have far more right and need to use public transport than pets.

        1. It doesn’t matter if the peanuts are open or closed, just having them in a sealed bag on a vehicle is enough for people with severe allergies. Have you never been on a plane and they have announced that there are no peanuts on the plane today as a passenger has an allergy and then they collect any peanuts that people may have brought on privately?

  28. Personally I don’t like the idea. It limits a person’s ability to avoid dogs. And while there may be some guide dogs on PT at the moment, the numbers are few such that you could still be fairly certain of avoiding them. At the risk of relying on anecdotes, a friend of mine is severely allergic to dogs and if she sat on a seat where one had been earlier it would likely mean she would have to go home to recover. Though I guess it would depend on the number of people in this sort of situation – do we value the person who owns an animal’s ability to take it on PT, or a person’s ability to avoid an animal, higher?

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