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Top Tips For Taking Your Pet On Public Transport


General Advice


One of the biggest issues for pet owners living in cities or urban areas is travelling with our pets. Luckily this is starting to get a little bit easier for urban pet owners due to bus, train and ferry services across New Zealand starting to allowing dogs, cats and small animals on their vehicles if they are contained in a carry cage. But the rules and regulations vary greatly between city to city so it is important to do your research and know before you go. As well as making sure your pet is comfortable and well prepared for its journey. Find out more about what you can do to make your pet’s first journey on public transport more enjoyable for the both you and the other passengers using the service.

Check your local public transport providers regulations around pets

Although in New Zealand we are making steps in the right direction, there is still lots of parts of the country where pets are not allowed to ride on public transport. And the rules might differ depending on the transport provider and the type of public transport eg. bus, train or ferry. So it is very important to do your research before you take your pet on board.

At a glance from Sunday 16 June to Sunday 15 September 2019 Auckland passengers will be allowed to bring their pets on board trains as part of a three month trial. As well as pets being allowed to travel for free on all Metlink trains, buses and harbour ferries in Wellington since March 2019. Plus in the Hawke’s Bay small dogs and cats to travel are allowed to travel free of charge, in a secure carry cage on goBay public transport during off-peak times. But it is important to know and follow the regulations to ensure the trial is a successful one and that this initiative can be rolled out by more councils and public transport providers throughout New Zealand.

Make sure you know and follow the rules

If pets are allowed there is likely a few rules that you need to follow in order to ensure the comfort and safety of both your pet and other passengers. Although these rules will be specific to the city, transport type and specific transport provider here is a general overview of the guidelines for pets on public transport:

Pets must be contained in a suitable pet carrier (not a bag) that is small enough to be held on the owner's lap or stored under the seat.
Your pet is your responsibility, including getting on and off the bus, train or ferry
You can only take your pet during off peak times and all day weekends and public holidays
If the vehicle is crowded, staff can ask you to wait for the next service
If your pet is disrupts other customers you may be asked to get off at the next stop or station
Also when travelling with your dog on public transport always be prepared for drivers to have the authority to decide if you and your dog can ride or not, so build a little extra time into your journey in case you can't take the first bus or train that comes along. As if the bus is too full or or it is peak travel times your pet may be rejected from travel.

Invest in a suitable pet carrier

In order for your pet to be able to ride with you on pubic transport you are required to contain them in a suitable pet carrier (not a bag) that is small enough to be held on the your lap or stored under the seat. There are various sorts of suitable carriers available on the market, from plastic carriers to soft carriers and soft sided crates. The carrier just needs to have closed sides and top so as to rule out the use of pet bags or backpacks for the transport of pets.

When selecting a carrier for your pet you need to know the height and length of your dog in order to get carrier that will fit your pet comfortably. As a good rule of thumb to follow your pet carrier needs to be long enough for your dog to turn around easily and stretch out when laying down. Unfortunately with the current rules this rules out the transportation of large dogs on the bus as a suitably sized pet carrier for a large dog would not fit on their lap our underneath a seat.

Make sure your dog is comfortable

Any new experiences can be frightening for our pets, and riding on a bus, train or ferry can be a scary experience for your pet. So it is important to take it slow and make sure they are as comfortable as possible. It is a good idea to make sure that they are comfortable travelling in their crate or carrier before you take them on the bus. It is good to practice this by rewarding them for being in the carrier or taking them in the car in their carrier first. Also you need to consider the temperature when you are travelling to avoid your pet overheating and suffering any ill effects.

Another way to make your pet comfortable is to ensure they have a favourite toy and blanket in the carrier with them. And to bring some treats to help reward your pets good behaviour, so that they learn to enjoy travelling on public transport with you.

Be considerate of other passengers

As with anything when taking your pet on public transport it is important to be considerate of others around you. Some things to keep in mind are when you get on the bus or train ask permission to sit next to people on the bus with your pet. As this is not only the polite thing to do it also makes sure you don't sit next to someone with allergies or who is scared of cats or dogs. It is also good to make sure your pet is relaxed, calm and clean when travelling on public transport so as to not disrupt other passengers.

Walk your pet before you go!

For the comfort of your pet and other public transport users it is a good idea to make sure your pet is well exercised before you go. As a hyperactive dog doesn't make a fun travel companion, for you or your fellow passengers. So it is a good idea to make sure you give them a good long walk beforehand to really tire them out. This also gives them a chance to go to the toilet before you board, which means you will avoid any potentially embarrassing accidents while you travel.

It is exciting times with pet friendly revolution starting to extend to allowing pets to travel with their humans on public transport. This opens doors for dog owners without access to cars making it more accessible to own a pet in our country, meaning people can take pets on the bus to vet appointments or explore the city with their dog. Although travelling with your dog, even for a short commute or trip within your city, isn't always a walk in the park. So it is important to know your city's rules and regulations and ensure both you and your pet are well preparation. This will make the trip as safe and smooth as possible for not only you and your pet but the others who are sharing the bus or train with you.

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Written by The


Written by The Team

A team of specialists with backgrounds in animal nursing, animal care, and all things pet related.