Dogs on Public Transit; What Could Go Wrong?


Montreal’s official opposition party Ensemble Montréal is planning to table a motion that would call for dogs to be allowed on the city’s public transit. Obviously, service dogs are currently welcome, but this new concept would allow all leashed dogs to ride the system.

It seems that other cities, including Toronto, have had positive experiences with similar laws. However, in 2016, the Metro Transit Authority in New York banned people from bringing their pets on the subway. The only exception was for animals “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers”. New Yorkers, being New Yorkers, were quick to create loopholes.

NYC Subway

Although I prefer cats, for any number of reasons, I do like dogs. But I have to wonder about this public transit idea. Before I elaborate, let me make it perfectly clear that responsibility for any potential problems rests solely with the dog owner, not the animal! If you don’t think your dog is comfortable on public transit, leave them at home.

Before I elaborate, let me make it perfectly clear that responsibility for any potential problems rests solely with the dog owner, not the animal!

My experience is that many, not all, dog owners feel that dog laws are not intended for them. Where I live there are many ‘dog runs’; fenced-in areas in which dogs can run freely off a leash, in all other areas doggies must be leashed. Yet some owners still feel it is their right to allow their pooch to scamper about off the leash on soccer fields, playgrounds, and other green spaces. When questioned by fellow park users, or approached by park rangers, they often reply that their dog is just a friendly old feller who poses no harm. Perhaps they are right, but what they don’t seem to grasp is that if one person does it with a lovely docile hound, how do you explain that to the person with a more testy bitch? Rules are rules. Individual interpretations lead to mayhem.

Bridget

Way back when I was in high school, during the seventies, we had a family pet – Bridget. She was a mutt including parts Chihuahua and Fox Terrier. Bridget was a loyal lapdog, once she got to know you. Mind you, for the most part, she was an ornery old girl who had to be kept away from other dogs and most people. This was easily accomplished as she only weighed a dozen pounds and could be quickly picked up.

Yet on one occasion, as my mother was sitting on our front walkway one sunny afternoon with leashed Bridget laying at her feet, a neighbour’s child, a little girl of nine or ten, decided she wanted to make friends with Bridget. Defying my mother’s warning that ‘Bridget’s not very kind’ the child waved her fingers in the dog’s face and was bitten.

The judge went on to explain that dogs – and all pets – are luxuries, not rights.

A mere skin wound, but nonetheless a scary experience for the child. She ran off crying; her father proceeded to call the police. To make a long story short, I’ll cut to the court appearance (yep, they hauled Bridget up before a magistrate – actually it was my mother who appeared in municipal court). Having heard both sides of the incident, the judge admonished my mother, even though the dog was on private property and the child was told not to approach. The judge went on to explain that dogs – and all pets – are luxuries, not rights. Bridget received a slap on the paw and was sent home, but always maintained she would have got off with a good lawyer.

One of the possible stipulations being bandied about regarding public transit is to allow dogs on certain cars in the Metro. Much like the current law allowing bicycles in the first car only law, perhaps dogs on leashes could be allowed in the last car only. Again, let me stress that dogs probably can’t tell which car is the last; this is all on the human. I can imagine a dog owner with properly leashed Fido dashing to catch a train and ducking into a mid-train car, with people with allergies and dog fears.

Yet, on a daily basis, pedestrians are called upon to avoid dog droppings in parks and even on sidewalks. The beast’s fault? Nope, all on the human. Will this pattern be repeated on public transit?

Continuing with my canine theme, we now appear to live in a world where the tail wags the dog. When I was a kid, every second child brought a peanut butter sandwich to school for lunch. Now, it’s more acceptable to bring a bag of humming nuclear waste to a school cafeteria than peanut butter, given allergies.

And what about picking up after man’s best friend? Signs abound in parks and on streets warning dog walkers that it is the law to clean up your dog’s feces. Stoop and scoop as the saying goes. Yet, on a daily basis, pedestrians are called upon to avoid dog droppings in parks and even on sidewalks. The beast’s fault? Nope, all on the human. Will this pattern be repeated on public transit? Only time will tell.

I can imagine a dog owner with properly leashed Fido dashing to catch a train and ducking into a mid-train car, with people with allergies and dog fears

Although I cannot find a reference to the incident online, I seem to recall, sometime mid-nineties, a dog – perhaps a Rottweiler – biting a passenger while on a Montreal bus who had reached down to pick up something they had dropped. Sadly, I believe this resulted not only in the harm to the human but also in the dog being put down. Had the owner properly muzzled the animal, or ideally realized that this dog was evidently not suited for public transit, this painful episode may never have taken place.

But remember, if this motion is passed and the law comes into effect, should things go pair-shaped, don’t blame the dogs!

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