by Nadyat El Gawley
Leading animal and transport advocacy groups have criticised the sudden decision by Transport for NSW to ban dogs from the light rail in the inner west.
The ban has come after months of allowing commuters to take their pets on the light rail since the service opened in March.
Michael Wright, from Animal Medicines Australia, says the decision was “regrettable”.
“It would be disappointing if we approached human animal interaction in an overly risk-averse way,” he said.
Dulwich Hill resident and dog owner Charlotte Manne was planning to visit Leichhardt’s dog park by light rail and was unaware of the ban.
“We have very few dog parks, so you need a bit of community engagement to find out what we actually want,” Ms Manne said.
NSW Greens senator Jamie Parker said he was at a loss as to who made the decision and why, and indicated that he will be seeking clarification.
A number of residents have voiced their anger at the ban, including a pensioner who
had to make a four hour trip on foot as, when arriving at the station, the pensioner’s dog was banned from the light rail, according to Senator Parker’s spokesperson.
Dogs NSW said state governments are “unresponsive” and “out of step” with the times. Brian Crump, of Dogs NSW, pointed out that Australia has one of the highest incidence of dog ownership in the world. The latest survey by Animals Medicines Australia, Pet Ownership in Australia 2013, shows dogs to be the most common pet, with 39 percent of households owning a dog.
“We believe public opinion would support dogs on public transport,” Mr Crump said.
Animal welfare consultant Maryann Dalton believes there’s plenty of room for discussion, saying that if the Government introduced a policy of allowing dogs on public transport, there could be special carriages or services available to accommodate animals and their owners.
Gavin Gatenby, co-convenor of Ecotranist Sydney, said the change will increase pressure on the authorities to provide services. The non-profit group points to European countries where dogs are able to travel on public transport.
“It’s just regarded as part of life,” Mr Gatenby said.
Dog owner and Leichhardt resident Mustapha Altinci said, “If it’s possible in any other country, it should be allowed in Australia.”