Londoner asks London Transit Commission to allow pets on buses

Current London Transit rules only allow for service animals on buses, but local resident AnnaMaria Valastro says accommodation is needed for pet owners who rely on public transit. Darryl Dyck / The Canadian Press

If all goes according to AnnaMaria Valastro’s plan, you may soon be allowed to bring a furry friend the next time you board a bus in London, Ont.

The local resident is making a pitch on Wednesday afternoon before the London Transit Commission (LTC) where she’ll ask members of the oversight group to allow for pets on transit.

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Currently, London Transit only allows service animals on board and they must be clearly in the care and control of the animal’s owner, be it through a leash, a cage or something similar.

AnnaMaria Valastro, who is pitching the policy change, says pet owners who rely on public transit should be accommodated too.

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This includes folks living in a home without enough backyard space or a nearby off-leash dog park to let their pets roam free. There’s also the matter of pet owners who live far from a veterinarian’s office or may not have a way to travel there without public transit.

“If you’re low-income and you want to travel with your pet, you can’t. It just seems backwards to me,” Valastro said.

Valastro also points to the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), which allows pets during non-peak periods, so long as they’re leashed or secured in an enclosed container.

In a letter to the LTC, Valastro lists allergies, potentially aggressive pets, urinating or defecating pets, and fellow riders being afraid of dogs as counter-arguments, but suggests providing bus drivers with the ability to deal with these issues at their own discretion.

“It would be handled no differently than an aggressive person on a bus except it would be easier to deal with as the owner would escort the dog off the bus,” Valastro writes.

“If a dog was to urinate or defecate on a bus, it would be handled no differently (than) if a person was to vomit on a bus or food was spilled on a bus and so on.”

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Speaking to Global News from a downtown London bus stop, transit rider Nikar Kim says he doesn’t see a huge problem with the idea, so long as it doesn’t impact other riders.

“As far as what everybody else thinks, I can see how it can be a problem, but to me it’s not,” Kim said.

Fellow transit rider Matthew Cotton had a similar view and said he could understand the frustration that may come with a loud pet on board.

“I would be quite annoyed with a dog barking, so in that sense I do get it from both sides, but I do think pets should be allowed,” Cotton said.

“We all got to be courteous to one another, we all got to be accepting of one another, and if that means putting up with a bit of noise for a 10-minute bus ride, I think it’s worth it.”

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A similar push is being made by pet owners in B.C., who are asking TransLink, the authority responsible for Metro Vancouver’s regional transportation network, to expand their pet-boarding policies.

While pets are allowed, they must be kept in “small, hand-held, fully enclosed carriers that fit in your lap, with no part of the animal exposed.” A petition to TransLink, which has garnered more than 3,500 signatures, says this rule excludes larger pets who are unable to be kept in small carriers. The petition cites a rising cost of living and an increase in pet ownership amid the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for why the expanded policy is especially needed.

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As for the London-based pet-friendly push, members of the LTC are set to receive Valastro’s presentation on the matter just after 5 p.m. Wednesday.

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