Monday, November 11, 2013

Should pets be permitted on OC Transpo?

As reported in the Ottawa Sun, a group of people from the Ottawa Pet Expo have launched a petition to have OC Transpo initiate a pilot project to allow small pets in crates or carriers on buses during off-peak hours. From the petition's description:
The Ottawa Pet Expo petitions for a "Pets on Public Transit Policy" to be introduced as a six-month pilot project, allowing small pets in crates/carriers on public transit during off-peak hours. During this six-month pilot period, OC Transpo bus drivers will be given the discretion to refuse boarding to anyone with a crate that exceeds size restrictions, e.g. larger than can be carried and stored easily or a crate or carrier that appears insecure.
This isn't the first petition that's been circulated on this issue; back in 2008, the local chapter of the Responsible Dog Owners of Canada published a 2,000-signature petition to the same ends: A six-month pilot project that would allow pets on OC Transpo buses.

The current petition, however, backs up their request with statements of support from the Ottawa By-law and Regulatory Services Branch, the Ottawa Spay & Neuter Clinic, Ottawa Public Health, and the Ottawa Humane Society for a pilot project. Also, apparently there are 25 cities in Canada that allow pets on public transit, including Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg.

Potential issues remain, however, and the one that stands out to me is the potential impact of this pilot project on a bus operator's ability to concentrate on his job. Allergies are a major issue; noise is another, but there's no shortage of noise on the bus most of the time so operators must be pretty used to that by now. The possibility of a pet escaping from the control of his or her human companion is another issue, of course; a dog or cat running around on the bus could create a very dangerous distraction for the operator.

Also, giving operators the discretion to refuse animals just opens the door for conflict--if an operator says no, the pet's human companion may not (and probably will not) react calmly. Operators take enough unwarranted abuse from riders and giving them discretion over such an issue opens the door for even more.

And, of course, animal crates take up space. That won't be as much of an issue during off-peak hours, but it could still cause problems.

On the other hand, regular transit users have pets that need to get to veterinarian appointments. If this pilot project moves forward, it will offer them the opportunity to get there by public transit, increasing the number of off-peak and non-commuting trips available to Ottawa residents.

So I put the question to readers: What are your thoughts on this pilot project?

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