Public Transit with Your Pets

The pros and cons of traversing Toronto by the TTC

By Brian Reynolds

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Getting around town with your canine companion sounds like a simple enough task but what if you need to take public transportation? Living downtown, everything I need to do with my dog is within a relatively short walking distance, which is the way I’ve planned out my life. As a man of convenience and a dog owner without a car, I try to walk my dog everywhere. My veterinarian, parks and every pet-related service and store I need can be reached on foot. Toronto is a big, dog-friendly city but eventually you may decide or need to take a trip with your pup and ‘ride the rocket’.

The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) and their operators are reasonably dog-friendly but their bylaws tell another story. The TTC does not allow pets during peak operating hours. So if you’re planning on taking a busy route between 6:30-10a.m. or 3:30-7p.m. you may be out of luck unless your furry friend fits in a purse or small bag or you have a service dog (which thankfully are exempt). I don’t have the luxury of being able to fit my 100-pound American Bulldog into my backpack so I’ve had to bite the bullet and take a taxi when my destination is out of walking distance during peak TTC hours. Some taxi drivers are frightened of big dogs but I’ve never had an issue when giving the cab company a heads up that I have my best friend with me.

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With all the concerts, festivals and sporting events around the city, the TTC reserves the right to declare any time peak operating hours. Having the power to unilaterally declare peak hours at any time is a bit authoritarian but in all likelihood will not affect your trip anymore than planning around peak operating hours. I highly doubt you will ever come across a public servant in a red vest and peak cap deciding on a whim that the second you bring your dog on board that the TTC is now operating on peak hours just to screw you over. That’s not going to happen.

As much as I’d like it to be, public transportation is not my own private ride so I always try to sit out of the way with Buster as a courtesy to other riders. A lot of people are really friendly and will want to say hello to your dog (they never seem to be that interested in me) and others will admire from afar. Most people just want to tune out the world and be left alone while they go about their day. You may occasionally come across someone who is afraid of dogs due to allergies or a bad experience, but they do a great job of avoiding dogs themselves with their own survival instincts. Keeping your dog leashed will help alleviate a lot of fears they have even if your pet is well-behaved. It’s also a smart idea for the safety of your pup and will help keep staff from bothering you about your dog.

Even though peak hours for public transportation is not especially convenient for pet owners. The reality is that as long as you’re not on a busy route or your trolley isn’t jammed up with people, you’ll be able to take your dog with you on the bus or subway without any issues.

Photo credits: wyliepoon/CC