Should Australia Let Dogs On Public Transport?

More than 95 percent of dog owners believe public transport should be pet friendly.

With almost 39 percent of households owning a dog in Sydney, why are there still such tight restrictions on pets and public transport?

University of Sydney researchers Dr Jennifer Kent and Professor Corinne Mulley set out to understand how Sydneysiders transport their dogs in a city that doesn’t allow pets on public transport.

“There is compelling evidence of the links between companion animals and human health. So we wanted to know how much human-dog time is reliant on a car, and what role public transport could play to encourage this bond and activity,” said Dr Jennifer Kent, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning.

The study examined popular activities dog owners do with their furry friends that involved public transport such as going to parks, beach, dog classes, going to dog training, cafés, bars or the shops; and visiting family, friends or the vet.

“Based on our research sample of dog owners, we estimate that there are approximately 2.4 million dog-related trips in a private car carried out in Sydney each week,” said Dr Kent.

On average, people walk their dog twice or more a week and in one quarter of cases they began the outing by car. More than three quarters of dog owners who go to a recreational area twice or more a week, 45 percent of these people went by car.  Of the two thirds of people who go to the dog park three times a week, more than half went by car. Similarly, of the two thirds of people visiting family or friends once a week, 88 percent did so by car.

“If dogs weren’t restricted from riding on public transport, this high number of car trips for dogs could be reduced. The benefits would extend far beyond fewer cars on the road, by potentially getting people moving more with their dogs and socially connected,” said Dr Kent.

Australia, the USA and parts of Northern America did not allow any dogs on public transport. In Paris all dogs must pass a “basket test” before getting on any public transport, while in other European countries such as Zurich dogs are charged a fare or required to have their own travel card.

“It is interesting that those countries with high rates of dog ownership, such as the USA and Australia, prohibit dogs on public transport. The issue with dogs on public transport is perhaps less about society’s appreciation of dogs, but more about the acceptance of dogs in public spaces.

“Increasingly in Australia we are seeing dogs welcomed in public places apart from the park and other recreational areas. More dogs are accompanying their owners to outdoor bars, cafes and other public spaces, as people are discarding the notion of the dog as a stay-at-home animal,” said Dr Kent.

Lead Image: National Geographic

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