Cathy Casey makes the case for allowing dog owners to choose whether to contain or leash their dog on public transport.
Auckland Transport is currently working with bus, train and ferry operators to develop rules that will allow pets to travel on public transport from October.
Looking around the world, it is clear that New Zealand is lagging behind. Leashed dogs are already travelling on public transport all over the world.
That Wellington is allowing contained pets to be carried on buses and trains from July is progress, but that will exclude many medium-to-large dogs from ever taking a trip on public transport. I am hoping that Auckland will be more like the great cities of Europe than Wellington.
In Amsterdam, public transport services allow dogs to be transported in a cage, bag or by other means as long as they are kept on a short leash. Similarly, in London, customers can travel by bus or tube with leashed dogs. National Rail, who operate Britain’s National Rail Network, also has a flexible approach to transporting animals by train and state that passengers can bring a maximum of two dogs, cats or other small animals for free, as long as they are on a lead and do not cause any inconvenience to others on board.
Dog owners are the best people to decide on how to safely transport their dog. My well-behaved little dog Suzie has never been in a carrier and would quite happily sit on my knee on a bus (as she did in the council chamber during the debate on dogs on public transport).
Since the council's recent vote to allow pets to travel on public transport, dog owners have been sharing their stories of travels with their dogs on public transport abroad.
Judy Simms, a constituent from Epsom, contacted me by email to tell me about her son Martin who is currently living in Brighton and has been travelling around England on public transport with his beagle Tilly. Judy sent me some photographs of Martin and Tilly on their travels, including a pic of Tilly upstairs on a double-decker bus. Tilly even got her own "Well Behaved Dog" ferry ticket for her boat trip on Lake Windemere.
Responsible dog owners in Auckland make up the majority. As ever it is the irresponsible few that hit the headlines. The proposed change to Auckland Transport’s policy is an opportunity to turn this around and show Aucklanders that dog owners and their dogs can be trusted to do the right thing.
Here’s hoping that come October, Auckland Transport opens up the public transport network to allow the owners of Auckland’s 96,699 registered dogs to choose whether to contain or leash their dog for the trip.
In a few years, we will wonder what all the fuss was about!
Albert-Eden-Roskill ward councillor Cathy Casey is chair of the council's community development and safety committee, and a dog lover.
Please note: From next month Auckland Transport will be doing a full review of the of the terms and conditions of use of public transport. As part of that review AT will consider whether pets should be allowed on public transport. The review will ask for feedback from public transport operators and the people of Auckland.