September 3 2014
Nadyat El Gawley
Leading animal and transport advocacy groups have criticised the sudden decision by Transport for NSW to ban dogs from the light rail in the inner west.
The ban has come after months of allowing commuters to take their pets on the trams since the service opened in March.
Michael Wright from Animal Medicines Australia says the decision was regrettable. “It would be disappointing if we approached human animal interaction in an overly risk-averse way,” he said.
Dulwich Hill resident and dog owner Charlotte Manne was planning to visit Leichhardt’s dog park on the tram and was unaware of the ban.
“We have very few dog parks, so you need a bit of community engagement to find out what we actually want,” Ms Manne said.
“We’re at a loss as to who made this decision and why. We will be asking the Minister to clarify,” said a spokesperson for NSW Greens senator Jamie Parker, via email.
“We’ve spoken to a number of residents in the area who are angered by the ban.”
“One pensioner had to make a four hour trip – on foot – as when arriving at the station, was told the dog was not allowed on the light rail, ” the spokesperson said.
Dogs NSW said state governments are ’unresponsive’ and ‘ out of step’ with the times.
“Australia is one of the highest dog owning countries in the world,” said spokesperson Brian Crump. “We believe … public opinion would support … dogs on public transport.”
Animal welfare consultant Maryann Dalton says there’s plenty of room for discussion on this.
“If they were to introduce a policy of allowing dogs on public transport, there should be particular carriages or services available to accommodate the animals and their owners,” she said.
With 63 per cent pet ownership, Australia is estimated by Animal Medicines Australia to have one of the highest pet ownership rates in the world.
Their latest survey, Pet Ownership in Australia 2013, shows dogs to be the most common pet, with 39 percent of households owning a dog.
This change in lifestyle will “increase pressure on the authorities [to provide services]” said Co-Convener of Ecotransit Sydney Gavin Gatenby.
The non profit group which works on public transport issues points to European countries where dogs have been able to travel on public transport.
“It’s just regarded as part of life,” he says.
Dog owner and Leichhardt resident Mustapha Altinci said: “If it’s technically possible in any other country, it should be allowed in Australia.”
Transport for NSW and the transport minister’s office have not responded to requests for comment.