Using Public Transportation With Your Dog

What Public Transportation Services Allow Dogs?

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Sometimes traveling with your dog is a necessity, and we do not always have access to a car of our own or a car service. Public transportation can be an option for you and your dog, but it is important to be prepared. Only some major metropolitan areas allow non-service animal dogs on their transportation systems, and each of them has their own set of rules as to what is needed.

Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and Orlando are all major U.S. cities whose public transportation systems allow pet dogs on their buses, trains, and subways. Here are the rules for each of these major cities

  • Boston: Small dogs can ride the T Subway System as long as they are in a carrier. During non-peak hours, larger dogs on leashes can ride as well.
  • Chicago: Dogs riding on any form of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) must be in a carrier and cannot take up their own seat.
  • New York City: Small dogs are welcome to ride the MTA subway, bus, and commuter rail system as long as they are in a bag or crate.
  • San Francisco:  The MUNI allows any type and size of dog to ride on its trolleys, rail cars, and cable cars when it is not peak-hours.
  • Atlanta: Dogs in a crate or carrier that can fit on your lap are allowed on Atlanta’s Rapid Transit Authority.
  • Orlando: Like Atlanta, dogs are welcome on public transit as long as they are in a carrier or crate that can fit on your lap.
  • Denver: Small dogs in rigid carriers (not soft carriers, which have become popular) can ride buses and the light rail.
  • Seattle: In Seattle, it is up to the public transit’s driver to decide whether or not your pup is allowed on board. If the driver deems your dog unruly, smelly, or aggressive, they can refuse to let your pup on the bus.

Smaller communities’ public transit systems may also allow dogs to come on board. Be sure to check with your local public transit before assuming that your dog can ride on any bus or train. Here are some questions to ask your local transit authority:

  • Are only service animals allowed? All forms of public transportation legally have to allow service dogs on their bus, train, subway, etc. It is important to note that service dogs and therapy dogs are not the same thing, so having a recommendation from a therapist may not count for some transit systems.
  • Does it cost me anything to bring my dog on board? The aforementioned major transit systems do not require you to buy a ticket for your dog, but smaller transit companies might.
  • Are there certain times my dog is allowed on public transit? Many transit systems may not allow pet dogs on board during peak rush hours. Make sure there are no time restrictions for when you want to use public transit with your pup.
  • Are there size or breed restrictions? Some of the bigger transit communities will only allow dogs of a certain size on their transportation systems. Your transit system may not only have a size restriction, but a breed one as well. Make sure your pup is welcome on whatever transit service you intend on using.

Get Your Dog Ready For Public Transportation

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If you have checked all the rules of your public transit system, it is important to make sure your pup is ready for his ride on a crowded train, subway, tram, or bus. 

  • Make sure your dog is properly socialized. Bringing a dog onto a crowded bus if they aren’t used to interacting with so many strangers can be a stressful situation for your dog. Be sure to create a healthy social life for your dog so a bumpy subway ride won’t be too jarring for her. Proper canine socialization isn’t only good for public transportation scenarios, but for your dog on the whole as well.
  • Bring necessary paperwork and gear. Some transit authorities may require your dog’s immunization records or other paperwork before he is allowed to ride on public transportation. Some public transportation systems may require a short leash, carrier or a muzzle for a dog on public transit. Also, even if your dog is potty trained to a tee, it is a good idea to bring emergency clean up wipes just in case. 
  • Be a courteous rider with your dog. Do not let your dog take up or block a seat that is meant for a human. If the train or subway you are on is less crowded, opt for a seat further away from others, in case they suffer from allergies or have a fear of dogs. If you are on a crowded bus or train, do your best to make sure both your dog and the people around you and your dog are comfortable.
  • Check if your dog gets motion sick before bringing them on public transit. There is nothing worse than a carsick dog, except a carsick dog on public transit. Make sure your dog can stomach a bumpy ride before bringing them onto a crowded bus or train.

The best thing to do before traveling with your dog on public transportation is to prepare. Once you have all of the research done (and you have made sure your pup is OK with motion sickness), using public transit with your doggo can not only be an easy experience, but a pleasant one as well. Do you use public transportation with your dog? Have any tips for people who are about to try it for the first time? Share your tips and tricks in the comments section.

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