For years, the adventurous Tiffany and her human Stephen Pugh's daily walks have been limited to their neighbourhood. But that is about to change.
As of Oct. 15, Montrealers will be able to ride the Metro with their canine friends as part of a nine-month pilot project to include dogs on public transit — with some restrictions.
"It opens up our whole life for us," said Pugh.
"Now I can take her places and go to the St. Lawrence River or downtown or Jean-Drapeau Park: places I wouldn't normally go."
Dogs will only be allowed on the Metro between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. and after 7 p.m. on weekdays, to avoid rush hours, and any time on weekends and holidays. There is no fare for animals.
The rules are the same as riding the Metro with a bicycle, explained Éric Alan Caldwell, the Mercier–Hochelaga-Maisonneuve councillor who sits on the Société de transport de Montréal (STM) board.
(Bicycle riders must use the front car of the Metro, however, and with that in mind, dog owners are discouraged from riding in that car with their pets.)
Dogs must be leashed and muzzled. They will not be allowed to occupy seats, and owners will be responsible for cleaning up any messes. Owners who don't follow the rules could lose the privilege of riding with their dogs.
Dogs won't be allowed on buses or paratransit vehicles, at least for now. (The STM already allows caged pets and service animals on all public transit.)
Constables, police to enforce rules
The STM's special constables and the Montreal police Metro unit will have the power to enforce guidelines, first by issuing a warning and escorting clients who fail to off the Metro, said STM spokesperson Philippe Déry.
When asked how they will deal with people who repeatedly break the rules, the STM said a statement of offence could be issued. However, they do not expect to prohibit access to the Metro, because "it would be very complex and would require recourse to the courts," he said.
"We are confident that dog owners will be respectful and polite and follow the instructions and recommendations," Déry said.
He said cleanliness will be monitored closely, but he trusts clients will follow "basic etiquette." He recommends owners take their dogs on walks before entering the Metro to prevent incidents.
Montrealer Étienne Paquette, an animal lover, said he is excited to have dogs allowed on the Metro and acknowledges the rules will make those who aren't used to dogs feel safer.
"Public transport is for everybody: those who love dogs and own a dog and those who don't," he said.
SPCA petition was impetus for change
The pilot project was developed in response to the Montreal SPCA's "Fido Takes the Metro" campaign — a petition that garnered 18,000 signatures.
The STM worked with the SPCA to evaluate how other major cities such as Toronto, Paris and Berlin make their dog-friendly transit access work.
Sophie Gaillard, director of animal advocacy and legal affairs at the Montreal SPCA, said the organization did not recommend muzzling, pointing to Toronto, which allows dogs without muzzles on the subway without issue.
She said dogs who aren't accustomed to wearing a muzzle will have to be trained before riding the Metro. The SPCA has online resources, including videos demonstrating how to train dogs to become comfortable with a muzzle, she said.
"We're hoping everything will go smoothly, and it will become a permanent policy across STM, including buses," said Gaillard.
Mobility, animal rights and urban planning
Caldwell said the city wants public transit to be Montrealers' main mode of transport and recognizes many dog owners don't use cars, which can make it hard for them to get to a veterinarian.
Gaillard confirmed that. She said the Montreal SPCA regularly has had clients cancel important appointments because their dog hasn't been allowed on public transit.
Some low-income dog owners find themselves confined to their neighbourhoods, without access to green space or a dog park, she said, making the public transit issue a question of mobility, animal rights and urban planning.
"We believe it's part of a collective effort to combat climate change, too," Gaillard said. "We want the city to [create incentives for] people to use public transport, and one way is bringing along their dogs."
Paquette said he hopes it will help people struggling to balance pet ownership and their daily lives.
"I think the city's decision can help dogs not be abandoned," he said.