Source: CBC (Extract)
Posted: June 14, 2023

Large dogs are currently not allowed to ride the LRT — but an online petition is hoping to change that.

The petition by Dog Friendly KW has already collected hundreds of signatures.

It refers to the dog-friendly transit policies in other cities like Toronto, Montreal and Calgary and wonders why there aren’t similar dog-friendly policies in Waterloo region.

Justine Sparling, co-founder of Dog Friendly KW, said the petition has brought in mixed reactions from the public, with some people worried for those with allergies or a fear of dogs.

She said they have already begun looking into ways to accommodate everyone.

“Some examples of that would be limiting what times of the day dogs could be on the LRT. So not allowing them to access that space during peak times,” she said, adding that muzzling could also be an option to help other riders feel safer.

They also found that designated dog-friendly or dog-free cars could also help separate riders who don’t want to ride the LRT with a larger dog.

Sparling said it is important to find a middle ground that is inclusive of all riders.

“The current state is that only animals small enough to fit in a portable crate enclosure are permitted on board Grand River Transit vehicles, so this really leaves like a majority of dog owners unable to access transit,” she explained.

“If you don’t have access to a vehicle, or let’s say you live in a building in the downtown core that doesn’t have access to parking, your ability to transport your dog somewhere is incredibly limited. Even simple things like getting to that appointment or getting to the groomer are things that are very challenging for dog owners to do.”

Grand River Transit (GRT) told CBC News in a statement that it is “aware of the petition to make changes to our pet policy” and that it “constantly reviews policies” to ensure services are accessible to all riders.

When asked why the current policy banning larger dogs is in place, GRT said in an email “larger dogs or other animals that could pose a threat to GRT customers and are not a designated service animal are not allowed on GRT buses or trains”.

GRT’s current policy only allows small animals kept inside a crate or enclosure to ride on all buses and trains.

LRT riders react

Om Nanavati frequently rides the LRT to go to work and get to class. He said there should be fewer restrictions for larger dogs on the LRT.

“The LRT is the only mode of transport right now for me until I buy car,” Nanavati said. “So if I want to take my dog somewhere where I’m going, I can’t leave him alone in case something happens. I can’t take a risk. So if I want to take him with me I have to either Uber or [take a cab] … That would be costlier and I personally would not like to do that.”

Nanavati doesn’t currently own any large dogs, but he has experience travelling with his two dogs back home in India.

Kirti Joshi said she wouldn’t mind seeing a large dog riding along in the same cabin as her.

“I think the LRT is quite big and spacious enough they can incorporate dogs as well, so I don’t see the point of not allowing the dogs in there. It would be a good practice to include the dogs. Why can’t they ride?” Joshi said.

Hassina said GRT could easily work around accommodating people who are allergic or afraid of large dogs.

“Specific cabins could be allotted for them, with the passengers having pets,” she said. “That could be good for the pet owners and the general population as well.”

Jess Foye is going to school to be a personal support worker and she rides the LRT often. She worried if allowing all dogs on board may be tough for those with allergies.

“At least in the crate it is confined because if they have allergies and … with the buses having the windows open, you’re getting air circulation in there. So obviously you know all the allergens are traveling by air. So that would be another thing to consider,” she said, adding that keeping large dogs off the LRT is a tough call.

“I usually ride the bus with my small dog in a crate, so it’s hard to say someone with a small dog can ride but someone with a big dog can’t … But I understand why you wouldn’t want a big dog on there.”