AUTOMOBILES, TRAINS AND PLANES (Musings on Public Transportation, Rentals and Dogs)

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I enjoy the freedom of driving. To go wherever and whenever I want is convenient. I’m lucky to have this option, since finding other dog-friendly means of getting around in Canada is a challenge. As my old 2003 Malibu grows older and wearier I think about public transportation. Sometimes, I don’t mind using it—it’s gratifying to let someone else drive for a change. Meanwhile, my car has been awesome. She’s taken us on jaunts around southern Ontario many times and detoured us north a few. She’s carried us to Newfoundland to explore its natural wonders. And, this past summer, she managed to get us out to the Rockies in Alberta and back safely—thanks to my ex-mechanic neighbour, who spruced her up beforehand. Afterwards, I thought of how it seemed right that my Malibu had helped us complete our western journey. I realized she’s a part of our pack—Tessi, the Malibu and me (along with Helen and Missy, when they’re able to join us). While I brood about Tessi and me growing older, I’m concerned for my car, too. City Transit Dog-friendly city transit would be especially handy for touring our hectic concrete jungles, as I definitely dislike big city driving. Disappointingly, the option is rare in Canada. So far, I’ve come across two:
  • Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), Toronto: “Leashed pets or pets secured in an enclosed container are welcome to travel on the TTC during weekday off-peak periods—that is before 6:30 a.m.; 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.; after 7:00 p.m.” I’ve used the system on weekends when there were no time restrictions.
  • Calgary Transit, Calgary: “Your dog can now ride for free. Just make sure you have a leash on your furry friend. Other animals can also ride for free but they need to be in a carrier/cage.”
Regional Public Transit While looking up info for the TTC, I came across Go Transit, which serves the Greater Toronto and Hamilton area. They state: “We allow animals on board our trains and buses when they are in enclosed, secure containers that do not inconvenience other passengers.” Intercity Buses None of the major Canadian bus companies I’ve looked into permit pets on their coaches. These ones state:
  • Greyhound: “No dogs, cats, birds or other animals will be transported.”
  • Maritime Bus: “Animals are not allowed on our motor coaches.”
Trains Our main rail company, Via Rail, has strict pet policies. A dog must make the journey tucked away in the baggage department. At least you are allowed to tend to him, as outlined on the website, on longer trips. (The link contains a whole page of stipulations. Read carefully.) Planes The procedure for flying your dog gets quite complicated. I discuss the subject more thoroughly in my Musing - Taking to the Skies. Always read the instructions thoroughly for the airline you're interested in using. Ferries To reach certain destinations, ferries are often necessary. Luckily, they usually permit dogs, but with restrictions. Below I’ve listed what a few of the ferry companies in our country require:
  • Marine Atlantic: This conveyance to Newfoundland provides two choices—either leave your dog in the car or in a kennel tucked away in a designated room. The site offers details and pros and cons of each. (I offer a little more insight on this in my Dogs and Newfoundland piece.)
  • Owen Sound Transportation Company—the Pelee ferries and the Chi-Cheemaun: Pets are allowed onboard the ship. Pets must be on leashes or in cages and accompanied by their owner and will be allowed on the outside promenade deck only. You may leave your pet in your vehicle if you wish, but because no one is allowed on the automobile deck when the ship is sailing, your pet will be unattended for almost 2 hours.” (Read about our ferry adventures at Tessi Rides the Ferries)
  • BC Ferries: Pets must remain on vehicle decks for the duration of a voyage.”
Car Rentals If need be, I could rent a car. Most companies allow dogs in their rentals with no extra fee—unless you return the car dirty, strewn with fur or damaged. Budget gives a general idea of what is expected: “Housebroken pets are invited to travel in your rental car, just as they do in your personal car. Although Budget doesn't assess an extra fee for pets, pet owners will incur an additional charge for any damage caused by animals, or any special cleaning required as a result of shedding or accidents.” Check these sites for more general info: Each individual location may have its own specific pet policies. Always call the one you’re interested in renting from to confirm beforehand that pets are indeed allowed and in what manner—for example, they may have to be crated. I recommend bringing a blanket along to cover the seats with. You may want to stop often for pee breaks for your dog. This will also give him a chance to stretch his legs and alleviate boredom. In Conclusion Policies vary widely for our furry companions when it comes to public conveyance. Always check first with the means you hope to use. Policies are usually stated somewhere on their websites—often in the FAQ sections. To note—service dogs are always authorized to be on any of these modes of transportation. My wheeled girl always welcomes our canine friends and has hosted quite a few during her lifetime. For now, she is still getting us around. And I’m thankful for the ease of that.

(c) Cheryl Smyth, 2014

"There's gotta be a faster way to travel."

To help others in their travels, use the comments section below to share any dog-friendly transportation means that you know about or have experienced; or to comment on any I’ve mentioned.

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