Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pets on buses: The issues

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 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 reported. The issue remains contentious, however, as the president of the OC Transpo drivers' union Andre Cornellier suggested (in the above-linked article) that he doesn't think a ferret qualifies as a service animal.

Most recently, 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.


Ben said...

Commuters don't take their pets to work, so 95% of the people who take the bus don't care about this issue. Our councilors should get back to the issues that matter and stop giving the sun excuses to put cute animals on its front page.

Anonymous said...

So Alex Cullen thinks that animals should be allowed on the bus so long as they don't take up any space? Fat chance of that happening. There are always people putting their backpacks on the seat next to them or sitting in the middle of two seats. Allowing people to bring a crated animal on the bus certainly won't improve the situation.
I have a cat (whom I love dearly) but I can't foresee any situation in which I'd have to (or want to) bring him on a bus. Maybe some people would use the bus to bring their pets to a small animal clinic but I can't even see this happening.
Allergies aren't the only thing to worry about either... I know my cat gets super-stressed in the car and makes, ahem, unfortunate messes. This would be absolutely intolerable on a public bus and completely unfair to other users.