The issue of allowing pets onto OC Transpo buses has been around for a while, but it really caught some steam when the Ottawa Sun published a story of a 2,000-signature petition from the local chapter of the Responsible Dog Owners of Canada (RDOC-Ott) which asked for six-month trial to allow small or crated animals on city buses. Chairwoman of the RDOC-Ott Candice O'Connell cited the fact that many other cities allow such measures, but Ottawa councillor Jan Harder was sceptical to the support such a motion would receive.
Last Friday the Ottawa Citizen published a story where Bay Councillor Alex Cullen, head of the city's transit committee, said that commuters with small, crated animals should be allowed to bring them on the bus--provided the animals are "not taking up any space".
Back to the Sun, earlier this week an editorial expressed apprehension around the issue, largely based on concern for the drivers' ability to concentrate while listening to pets and the potential (and likely) complaints of pet-unfriendly commuters. The story quoted Mayor Larry O'Brien and once again Cullen as supporters of the trail, councillor Maria McRae torn, and councillor Jan Harder completely against the idea. And, apparently, the city rejected this same idea in 1999 due to findings of Dr. Robert Cushman that pet dander could potentially be life-threatening to allergic or asthmatic riders.
In the Ottawa Metro this past week, Dr. David Algom expressed similar concerns to those of Cushman about allergies in a closed environment, and Dr. Antony Ham Pong mentioned that the risk might be greatest to a driver affected by allergies after a day of exposure.
To make the issue even more contentious, Frances Woodard wasn't allowed onto an OC Transpo bus due to her pet ferret, which she and her psychiatrist liken to a service animal, such as a guide dog, as reported on CBC.ca. However, because provincial law stipulates certified service animals are allowed on the bus, Woodard's ferret Gyno's bus pass will not be reinstated, as Canada.com reported. The issue remains contentious, however, as the president of the OC Transpo drivers' union Andre Cornellier suggested (in the above-linked Canada.com article) that he doesn't think a ferret qualifies as a service animal.
Most recently, CBC.ca quoted Cornellier once again, this time expressing strong concerns with allowing general pets (ferret and service animal issue aside) onto buses. The concerns are not only with possible allergies, but also the distractions if animals escape their cages.
Whoooo... quite the issue. More information about a resolution when it becomes available.