Smyth the whippet can't ride SkyTrain and owner Margaret Halsey thinks that should change.

Smyth the whippet can't ride SkyTrain and owner Margaret Halsey thinks that should change.

TransLink may loosen rules for dogs on transit

Policy only allows small pets to ride SkyTrain or buses if enclosed in cages

TransLink is reviewing its policy banning most dogs from riding SkyTrain or buses after a New Westminster woman urged the transportation authority’s board to reconsider.

Margaret Halsey, a dog owner and artist who does pet portraits, argues well-behaved leashed and muzzled dogs should be permitted on public transit outside of rush hour, adding it would help reduce the number of cars on the road.

“Most dog owners are very supportive of it, especially ones who prefer not to drive,” Halsey said. “It would help people get out of their own neighbourhood and walk their dog at off-peak times.”

Besides being on a harness, short leash and muzzle, Halsey suggests dogs be obedience tested by TransLink and approved dogs be required to wear a jacket that would help reduce allergens and identify the dog as authorized to ride transit.

TransLink’s current policy, in place since 2001, allows only small dogs and other pets that fit into a cage or container on the passenger’s lap. Guide dogs are exempt.

Halsey’s dog – a 42-pound whippet named Smyth – is too big.

“I can see him being very well behaved on the transit system, as would many dogs of  responsible owners,” she said. “There are irresponsible dog owners, of course, and they won’t be interested in it because they don’t like transit anyway.”

Spokesperson Jiana Ling said TransLink will consider allergy concerns, look at best practices in other jurisdictions, and consult with passengers, bus drivers and other stakeholders ahead of any decision to change the policy.

BC Transit is also considering a request to allow dogs on buses in Victoria.