Staff Report #4
January 25, 2023
To All Commissioners
Re: Policy Re: Pets on Transit
That the Commission APPROVE the following amendment to the LTC Service Animal Policy:
Replace “Pets are not permitted on-board LTC buses.”
With “Small domestic pets can be transported on London’s public transit services only if they are in a fully enclosed pet-purpose cage/carrier that can either be held on the lap of the rider or fit under the seat/at their feet where they sit/stand.”
Definitions Small domestic pet – generally defined as a mammal or bird (i.e. cats, dogs, rabbits) that can be transported in a pet-purpose carrier. Excludes all exotic pets (i.e. snakes, lizards)
At the September 13, 2022 meeting, the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee (APTSAC) met and discussed the issues and implications associated with potential amendments to the current Service Animal Policy which applies to both conventional and specialized services.
As a recap, the current policy with respect to pets and service animals is set out below noting it is considered to be in compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act legislation.
London Transit Commission Service Animal Policy
Pets are not permitted on-board LTC buses.
Service animals are permitted on buses if working in aid of the person making the trip.
Service animals on buses must remain in the care and control of the owner at all times. The owner must be prepared to demonstrate to the Operator how this requirement will be achieved. (i.e. leash, cage, etc.)
This applies as follows:
- the animal can be readily identified as one that is being used by the person for reasons relating to the person’s disability, as a result of visual indicators such as the vest or harness worn by the animal; or
- the customer provides documentation from a health professional confirming that the person requires the animal for reasons relating to the disability.
The section of the policy that is in bold above was added in 2019 in response to concerns experienced with support animals onboard buses who were roaming freely and causing safety concerns for both riders and bus operators.
In response to direction from the Commission, administration undertook a review of the policy which included the concerns raised and shared by all members ATPSAC, peer transit system policies and experience with same, as well as a review of London-specific operational issues which have occurred under the current policy. A summary of each of the above is set out below, all supporting the administration’s recommendation for a policy amendment going forward as set out in the report recommendation, noting this policy will apply to both the conventional and specialized services.
Initial Feedback from APTSAC members
As set out in Enclosure I, a member of APTSAC shared communications outlining concerns with respect to the potential impacts of allowing pets on London’s transit service on riders who rely on service animals in order to safely navigate the transit service. All members of APTSAC echoed their concerns with respect to the following which could potentially result in negative impacts on customers relying on service animals:
- pets have not necessarily been trained to deal with the experience on board a bus and may become unmanageable as the result;
- a service animal could be injured in an altercation with a pet, resulting in the inability of the owner to safely navigate during recovery;
- an altercation occurring while the bus is in transit would be left to the parties to attempt to control given the operator is driving the bus and the disability of the owner of the service animal could limit their ability to intervene effectively; and
- a pet acting out on the specialized service would put all passengers who are in secured positions at increased risk given their inability to move away from the animal
Peer Review of Other Transit System Policies
Administration undertook a review of policies of nine transit systems in Ontario in an effort to understand both the policy and any issues currently being experienced. The review included Brampton, Durham Region, Hamilton, Kingston, Milton, Mississauga, Toronto, Windsor and Waterloo Region. Every transit system included in this review allows pets on their service with varying criteria set out in their respective policies. The table below sets out an overview of the common policies’ elements and the number of systems that include each element in their policy.
|Policy Element||Number of Systems|
|Small pets only||6|
|Domestic pets only (no exotic)||5|
|Must be in a pet carrier||6|
|Must be on a leash OR in a pet carrier||3|
|Must fit on lap or under seat of rider||6|
|Only during off peak hours||2|
Toronto and Brampton are the only systems included in the review that restrict the time period in which pets are allowed to off-peak periods primarily due to crowding conditions that may occur in the peak operating periods. While many London Transit routes experience crowding conditions during peak operating periods, this additional criteria was not deemed necessary given the requirement for the pet to be in a carrier of a size that would fit on a riders lap or at their feet, and thus not requiring any additional space not already occupied by the rider.
London Specific Operational Issues
The initial request for consideration of pets on transit set out in Enclosure II, included a number of recommendations that raised concerns from an operational perspective, each of which is discussed further below. An over-arching concern with the recommendations is the writer’s assumption that the term “pets” is limited to dogs. Given this is not the case, responses to each of the recommendations has given consideration to any type of animal that may be perceived as a pet by its owner.
Third Party Recommendation 1: The Operator will have discretion over any dog that might be aggressive and would ask the owner to disembark.
LTC Operational Issues relating to this recommendation are primarily focused on the expectation that the Operator will have the discretion to determine that a dog may be aggressive and will ask the owner to disembark. The primary role of the bus operator is to drive the bus and ensure a safe trip for all passengers. Bus operators are also expected to collect fares, respond to customer enquiries, ensure accessibility features are deployed when requested, and be available to respond to concerns raised by customers on board. As an employer, London Transit is required to ensure that all employees can perform their jobs in a manner that is free from safety hazards which include interactions with customers that have the potential to escalate toward verbal or physical confrontation. Bus operators have no training that would support their ability to determine whether a pet has the potential to become aggressive, nor do they have time to stop customers who may be boarding with a pet to discuss same. The potential is very likely that an Operator who asks a customer to disembark because they believe the animal may become aggressive will result in a confrontational situation that is likely to escalate. There are numerous examples of this scenario playing out on the LTC conventional service when the initial service animal policy was introduced and at that time required supporting documentation. In many cases, the bus operator requesting the required supporting documentation resulted in a verbal altercation between the Operator and the customer. The removal of the requirement for supporting documentation in an updated policy has reduced occurrences of this nature, however they still occur from time to time.
In an effort to ensure the safety of bus Operators, they are trained to remain in their seat, and contact Dispatch via the radio if they require assistance. There is no expectation that an Operator would leave their seat to intervene in a conflict between two animals on the bus. An altercation of this nature would be left to the customers involved, which could potentially put a customer with a disability requiring a service animal at a disadvantage and result in their own or their animal’s injury.
Administration is not supportive of any policy that would place the onus on the bus operator to determine whether the animal may be aggressive.
Third Party Recommendation 2: If a dog were to urinate or defecate on a bus, this would be handled in the same manner as if a person were to vomit on a bus.
In the event of a potential biohazard on a bus (e.g. vomit), the bus is removed from service for cleaning. This requires a replacement bus to be sent out, and all passengers to vacate the original bus and transfer to the new bus. Depending on the time of day and availability of buses, this can result in a significant disruption for all passengers involved.
Given ongoing resource challenges resulting from the global pandemic, bus availability continues to be a challenge. Administration is not supportive of any policy change that may result in additional service pressures and/or unavoidable service interruptions that will negatively impact riders.
Third Party Recommendation 3: If a person was afraid of the dog, they could move away or ask the dog owner to move away, or complain to the driver.
As discussed earlier in this report, numerous London Transit routes experience crowding conditions throughout the day, and as such, there is often not an opportunity for a rider to move to a more desired location on a bus. The option for a rider to complain to the operator about being afraid of an animal that has been brought on board consistent with the policy is redundant as there would be no action the Operator could take to rectify the situation.
Subsequent Feedback from APTSAC members
The recommendations included in this report were presented to the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee for consideration at their November 15, 2022 meeting. While the Committee voted in favour of the recommended changes, additional suggestions for consideration prior to presenting a final recommendation to the Commission were presented by Committee members. Assessment of the additional suggestions is set out below.
Suggestion 1: Requirement for carrier/cage should include the ability for it to be locked.
The intent of the suggestion is to ensure the pet is contained in the carrier and unable to escape during the transit trip. The requirement for pets to be in a “fully enclosed” pet carrier in the recommendation covers this. Further, the additional requirement of a lock or locking mechanism would add another step for the bus Operator to check prior to allowing boarding, which has the potential to slow the boarding process.
Suggestion 2: Bus Operator should disclose to person boarding with a service animal when there is already another animal on board.
The intent of the suggestion to provide the person boarding with advance notice of the potential for their service animal to be distracted by another animal on board. While this approach is achievable on specialized services, it is less so on the conventional service where buses are very often crowded, and the Operator is unaware of who has left the bus via the back door at each stop. Given the number of tasks the conventional operator is focused on, administration is not recommending the addition of this measure.
Suggestion 3: Limit passengers who can transport a pet on transit to those aged 16 or older.
The intent of the suggestion is to ensure the passenger in control of the pet onboard transit can be relied upon to be responsible and ensure it remains in its carrier. Given the requirement for the pet to be in a fully enclosed carrier, administration did not deem this additional requirement necessary.
Suggestion 4: When booking a trip on specialized service, a customer must disclose if they will be transporting a pet.
The intent of the suggestion is to have the ability to provide the specialized service Operator with advance notice of a customer transporting a pet. While this expectation is not set out in the recommended Policy change, it will be included in the procedures for booking a trip with a pet on specialized service, similar to the requirement for notification of an attendant travelling with a customer at time of booking.
As set out earlier in this report, of the Ontario transit services reviewed, London is the only one that currently prohibits the transportation of pets on its services (conventional and specialized). The initial request received by the Commission to allow pets onboard indicated that such a shift in policy would result in a transit service that is more accessible to Londoners with pets that rely on public transit as a mode of transportation. While this perspective is accurate when viewed in isolation, the impacts of such a change on other riders needs to be considered.
In assessing the broader impacts and the concerns raised by APTSAC members, administration reached the conclusion that the potential negative impacts on riders who rely on service animals far outweigh the potential positive impacts of a policy to allow pets with no restrictions. As such the recommendation from Administration is to expand the current policy to allow small pets with restrictions in place that will mitigate, to the extent possible, the potential negative impacts on customers relying on service animals.
While some of the recommendations from members of APTSAC have not been incorporated in the current recommendations, it is important to recognize that part of the implementation plan for this policy change includes the close monitoring of all incidents on board transit related to the transport of pets, and modifications to the policy may be brought forward if deemed necessary.
Subsequent to Commission approval of the revised policy, a communication plan will be prepared which will include information on the changes to both LTC employees as well as the public at large. The change in policy will not take effect until such time as the communications program has been completed and appropriate notice to LTC employees has been provided. Given current resource availability considerations, it is anticipated the change in policy could take effect by March 1, 2023.
Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager