Eclipse, a black lab from Seattle, is redefining dogs on public transportation. This independent pet doesn’t just ride the bus — she rides it alone.
Her human is always right behind her. When Eclipse is tired of waiting for her person, though, she jumps on the bus ahead of him, gets off at a nearby dog park and meets up with him there. She’s learned the route so well she doesn’t need anyone to tell her when to get off. When she’s ready for the dog park, she’s determined not to let anything stand in her way.
While most people wouldn’t think of letting their pets on a public bus without them, that doesn’t mean public transportation is out of the picture entirely. In fact, tons of city dwellers use buses, trains and ferries with their dogs every day.
Service Animals on Public Transportation
There’s one statement that holds true pretty much everywhere: If you have a service animal, they’re allowed on board. Period.
According to the National Disability Rights Network, the “U.S. Department of Transportation ADA regulations define a service animal as ‘any guide dog, signal dog or other animal individually trained to work or perform tasks for an individual with a disability.’”
That means, in the U.S., if your dog has been tested, is registered and qualifies as a service dog, you can both use your city’s public transportation systems as much and as often as you want — together. Just make sure to follow basic rules, like not blocking aisles or exits.
Rules Vary by City
If your dog isn’t a service animal, however, you still might be able to take advantage of public transportation. The main thing to keep in mind is that every city’s metro system has different rules, so it’s important to do your research ahead of time.
New York City, for example, allows dogs to ride on board as long as they’re in a bag or carrier the whole time. People love their pets, though, and New Yorkers are no different, which, of course, led to a little creativity when this restriction was enforced (probably not what the MTA had in mind).
Chicago also allows dogs on trains and buses as long as they’re in a carrier that can fit on your lap. Add Houston and L.A. to the mix of places allowing dogs on board, and you can see how big cities across the U.S. are trying to make traveling with pets a reality for people who don’t rely on cars.
For an extensive list of cities and their specific public transportation rules, check here.
Riding Safely With Your Dog
Before you grab your dog’s carrier and head out the door, think about these important questions that will help make your dog’s ride as smooth as possible.
1. Do you have to pay for your dog to board a bus, train or ferry with you?
In many cases, you won’t have to pay for your pooch. For longer-haul trips on trains or major bus lines, however, a fee might be required. Check ahead of time.
2. Are there any time restrictions for when your dog can ride?
Your city might restrict dogs from riding during rush hour, for example. Again, doing your research ahead of time can help you avoid any hassle.
Watch these straphangers go gaga for Max. the subway-riding corgi:
3. Does your dog have to stay in a carrier or on a leash?
Some cities only allow dogs on board if they’re in a carrier. Showing up with just your pup on a leash might not get you where you’re going. (Adding to that point, some locales also require dogs to be muzzled.)
4. What’s the size restriction?
In most cases, large dogs aren’t allowed on public transportation. The easiest way to find out is by checking your city’s transportation website.
5. Is your dog comfortable being around lots of people, motion and noise?
If you can’t keep your dog calm, you’ll probably be asked to leave. Plus, why put your dog through that kind of stress if they aren’t ready for it?
If you’ve answered these questions and know your pet will be welcomed onto mass transit with open arms, your dog might just be ready to take on the title of “city slicker.” As always, make sure to keep their best interests in mind.