Written & photographed by: Kayla Walden
The Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) has many bylaws in place to ensure a safe and time-efficient ride for all passengers, some of which include dogs.
Current bylaws allow dogs that are on a leash or in a small carrier to ride TTC vehicles during off-peak hours before 6:30 am; 10:00 am to 3:30 pm; and after 7:00 pm, and service dogs may ride at any time. These specific bylaws are in place for multiple reasons, but primarily due to rush-hour crowds.
Official TTC spokesperson Brad Ross explains that, “…during rush hour, vehicles are crowded and we want to make sure the vehicles have as much room for the paying customer as possible… its about crowding, and its about ensuring that everybody can board a vehicle and that they don’t have to give way because of a pet…”
Melissa Upshaw, 24, says she rides the TTC with her 3-year-old German shepherd wolf hybrid dog, Ike, several times a week. Upshaw says that she plans her day according to the bylaw. She explains that although she sometimes finds it inconvenient, she understands why the bylaw is in place.
” Yeah it can be annoying at times, but I get it, my dog is huge and he does take up a lot of space. Its not fair for people trying to get home from work to be squished up against my dog. Another thing is that he’s so big, and I would be afraid of him getting stepped on.”
Retired Helen Juzytsch, is the owner of two small Pomeranian dogs and she agrees that the safety of dogs on the TTC is an issue during rush hour. “There just isn’t enough room,” she says, ” people are all shoved up against each other like sardines in a can, and if dogs were on the TTC at that time, they would almost certainly get trampled.”
Although many people in the city of Toronto are self-professed dog lovers like TTC’s Brad Ross, some are not. The bylaw also ensures a safe and comfortable ride for those not accustomed to dogs and those with allergies, by ensuring that certain times of the day on the TTC, stay dog-free.
According to an online research poll, many dog owners feel that the bylaw is excessively restrictive if they have a small dog that can be carried in a bag, a purse, or by hand. Many offer suggestions for an updated bylaw that allows small breed dogs to ride the TTC during peak hours, or paying an extra fare to allow for such accommodations.
The thought of allowing small breeds to ride the system during peak periods, aside from the other reasons, is still an issue because the size of the dog can become a debatable topic. The size difference between a chihuahua and a Labrador retriever is easily recognizable, but the exact cut off for what constitutes as a small dog and a medium dog is not as clear.
Ross explains that for the sake clarity and simplicity, the TTC needs to make sure that within the bylaw there isn’t room for interpretation or, “…room for a discussion or debate about it, rather it is very black and white in that it is based around the times of day when a dog can ride the system, and we need to stick with that as opposed to try to have various interpretations of what may or may not be a small breed.”
Due to the fact that Toronto-wide bylaws state that dogs outside of private property must be leashed or properly contained at all times, the TTC bylaws need not directly reference how a dog should be handled.
It is the expectation of the TTC that customers using the system are in control of their dog and are not feared, however if an issue with a dog does arise than it becomes the liability of the owner.
“I’ve honestly never had a problem with my dogs on the TTC,” says Pomeranian owner Helen Juzytsch, “Any time I ride with my dogs everyone seems to love them because they are so happy and well-behaved. Whenever we ride the TTC, it is a great social outing for them.”
As the owner of two dogs himself, Brad Ross agrees that riding the TTC with your animal can be a great tool for socialization, getting them used to crowds of people, loud noises and different environments, and admits to training his dogs this way when they were puppies.
“You never know when you might need to take your dog on the subway so you don’t want a fearful dog,” says Ross.
Melissa Upshaw has trained her large breed dog Ike, to safely ride the TTC system by making sure he is always on a short leash walking beside her and she often preoccupies him with a small treat in her pocket to maintain his attention when the subway cars reach the station.
“I’ve also taught him to do this thing I call ‘duck and cover’. Anytime we are on the TTC, usually a bus or the subway if I say ‘duck and cover’ Ike knows to get down on his belly and crawl under the seat.”
Upshaws’s ‘duck and cover’ technique protects Ike from getting trampled during times when the vehicles are busy, and she says it allows those who are not accustomed to dogs to feel safe when they see her large dog quietly sleeping under a seat.
Check out the video below to see an example of Ike’s ‘duck and cover technique:
Below is a visual story of Melissa and her dog Ike, through a typical ride on the subway.