February 16, 2018

A Letter to the City of Ottawa Transit Committee: August 20, 2008

In light of the recent very good news that OC Transpo are to be discussing allowing small pets on buses and trains at a meeting next week, we think it’s timely to share a somewhat visionary post from ten years ago.

Good afternoon councillors. My name is Bruce Roney and I am the executive director of the Ottawa Humane Society. Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to speak with you today.

I know that you have all read the comprehensive and compelling paper that the Responsible Dog Owners of Canada has presented you proposing a pilot project to allow small pets in carriers onto public transport in Ottawa.

After having read this paper, there is little that I can add to the comprehensive research provided. The paper dispels myths around zoonotic disease, allergens, and potential disruptions that could be caused by the policy. There simply are no sustainable arguments against piloting this program.

I am sure that it comes as no surprise to you that the Ottawa Humane Society is in support of this proposal. It is a step toward our vision of the positive integration of companion animals in our community,

I want to stress that while the Society is fully in support of this initiative, we are no friend of irresponsible animal owners and consistently promote that animals must be under their owner’s control at all times, whether this be on the sidewalk, a park, or on a bus.

The OHS serves all of Ottawa, and while our facilities on Champagne Avenue are central, serving what is geographically the largest city in Canada is a challenge both for the OHS and for those needing our services.

We have traditionally had concerns regarding transportation to our shelter by those seeking our services, whether it be those looking for a lost pet, those that have found a lost animal, those surrendering their animal or those that wish to adopt from us. Acceptance of this initiative would significantly reduce our concerns.

It may surprise you to know that only 17 percent of stray animals are brought to the OHS by bylaw officers. Most of the remaining stray animals—74 percent, in fact—are brought to us by the public.
We are concerned that a lack of transportation may be resulting in more animals—whether found or simply unwanted—being simply let loose and left to their own devices, rather than brought to our shelter.

We are concerned that a lack of transportation is a barrier to those seeking to find their lost pet at our shelter, resulting in fewer claims of stray animals and the attendant increased costs for both the City and the OHS.

We are concerned that there are those who are unable to access our adoption programs because of a lack of transportation, increasing our struggle to rehome thousands of animals every year. The decision to adopt should not be limited by the logistical concern of transportation and we do not believe that in a city with an extensive public transportation system, that animal ownership should be predicated by car ownership.

We are concerned that animals may not be receiving regular veterinary care and sick or injured animals may not be appropriately cared for because their owners lack private transportation.

We are concerned that the City’s own spay neuter clinic may not be accessible to many that lack private transportation. The result may be that those needing the service the most may not be able to use this service and the goals of the program may not be achieved.

You may not be aware of the OHS Brightening Lives program. Volunteers in this program visit 56 long term care facilities, old age homes and homeless and women’s shelters with owned animals providing those living in institutions with therapeutic animal visits. Volunteers for this program are difficult to recruit and not having private transportation is a barrier to participation.

We believe that the City should, wherever possible, support responsible animal ownership. Moreover, the City should support the choice to use public transportation. Very often, being a responsible animal owner entails the need for transportation. For a host of reasons—economic marginalization, age, disability, or a simple commitment to a green city—transportation means public transportation.

Please consider joining the dozens of Canadian cities that have made the responsible and progressive choice to allow confined animals on public transportation.

Thank you for your time.