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Residents divided over push to allow all pets on public transport

Some are all for the idea, but others have shared why they're firmly against it.

It's not always easy being a pet owner in Australia.

Strict rental laws prevent tenants from owning animals unless their landlord approves, and limited city parking makes life difficult to move pets around in cars, leaving few options available when it comes to transporting our furry friends.

Citing major metropolitan cities such as San Francisco, Paris, London and even Melbourne, the City of Sydney Council — spearheaded by Lord Mayor Clover Moore — is pushing for Transport for NSW to amend the state's laws to allow people to board all modes of public transport with their animals.

In NSW pets are banned on all Sydney and regional train services and stations unless they're an assistance animal. They may be allowed on ferries, light rail and buses, with the driver's permission, but many have said it's not worth taking the risk and potentially face rejection.

Pictured is a woman with a guide dog, and right a woman on a bus with a dog on her lap.
In NSW, only service dogs are allowed on trains, while on buses, ferries and the light rail, the driver must approve an animal boarding. Source: Getty

Sydney council, animal organisations push for change

With animal rights organisations and pet protection services publicly backing the idea, it seems the move is gaining traction. But Sydney locals — of which there are over five million —appear divided on the topic.

Speaking to Yahoo News Australia, RSCPA NSW said they're all for the proposed plan so long as animal safety is prioritised.

"The RSPCA supports the adoption of public transport policies which allow companion animals, such as dogs and cats, to travel with their owner or caregiver," a spokesperson said.

"Provided all animals are appropriately restrained or confined at all times, under control, socialised to other animals and people, calm and comfortable, and the owner or caregiver clean up after their animal."

One Sydneysider who sees both sides of the debate, but is generally for companion animals on public transport, said there would have to be conditions in place preventing chaos on board.

Ashley Barham and four-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier
Ashley Barham, who owns a four-year-old Staffordshire bull terrier, said she can see both points of view. Source: Supplied.

"I'm definitely for the idea but imagine a huge dog on the bus," Ms Barham told Yahoo News Australia. "Like, there's barely enough seats these days for humans, but then again, smaller dogs could easily sit on owners' laps."

Ms Barham said that most of the time she travels using her car as it's easier to transport her toddler, but for many without vehicle access it could be a game-changer to be able to use public transport with their pets.

NSW home to millions of pets

According to data from the RSCPA, there are an estimated 28.7 million pets in Australia — one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world — with approximately 69 per cent of all Aussie households owning pets. Unsurprisingly, dogs are the most common, at 48 per cent, followed by cats, at 33 per cent.

In NSW, the figures are a little less clear, but it's estimated millions across the state own at least one cat or dog. Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore said a city for "walking, cycling and public transport must serve everyone’s needs" including those who own a pet.

Are you a pet owner and have a story? Contact reporter Joe Attanasio at joe.attanasio@yahooinc.com

"By restricting pets, we’re just making people’s lives harder and encouraging car use," Ms Moore said.

"Research shows women feel much safer at night travelling with a dog on public transport and we know many residents, especially older and more vulnerable people, find it hard to visit relatives, friends or the vet as it’s so hard to get their pet around.

"If you haven’t already, please sign the petition to the NSW Parliament and share with your networks — I’ll put the link in my comments. People with pets are still often made to feel like second-class citizens through unnecessarily restrictive policies about pets on public transport."

Some concerned over hygiene issues

While many people online were in favour of the concept, some were strongly against the idea, citing cleanliness and odour.

"I’ve owned dogs, cats, birds and fish, I’m an animal lover and I’m definitely against the idea!" one person said on Facebook. "Travelled by train in the UK with the three of us sat at a four-seater with a table. The fourth seat was taken by a lady who brought her massive dog. We had to endure a two-hour train trip with the dog under our legs. By the time she got off I was in agony with leg cramps because I couldn’t relax my legs."

"I'm generally supportive of this but the reality is there are too many owners who do not control their pets correctly, and do not clean up after their pets and they become quite aggressive if you ask them to," said another. "I don't fancy using transport that has urination from pets or smells like damp dog fur.

"If something is done such as dedicated train carriages for pets, I would support that so you could choose which carriage to sit in, to either join them or avoid them."

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