If you're tired of leaving your furry friend at home when you head out on public transport, this may well be music to your ears. The Sydney Summit – an annual event from the Committee for Sydney that sees policy makers and city leaders assess potential changes to the city proposed by citizens – wrapped up last week, and the question of whether dogs should be allowed on trains and buses was high on the agenda.
As part of her pitch for allowing canine passengers to board our public transport network, Jennifer Kent, a senior research fellow in urbanism at the University of Sydney, cited the fact that 40 per cent of Sydney households own one or more dogs. She went on to highlight the countries in the world where dogs are accepted on public transport – with the UK, Canada, America, most of Europe and New Zealand all allowing fluffy passengers to join their human counterparts. Kent’s third point was one that tugged on the heartstrings: telling the story of Sydney-based dog owners who weren’t able to get their injured dog to the vet after it was hit by a car (they didn’t own a car).
Back in 2023, Lord Mayor Clover Moore led renewed calls for animals to be allowed on Sydney’s public transport system, claiming that current rules put pet owners who don’t own a car at an unfair disadvantage. Moore’s claims are supported by community group Tails on the Rails, who are campaigning for “good dogs” to be allowed on Sydney’s trains on the weekends.
And though for the dog lovers among us, the thought of having a fluffy companion next to us on the train is appealing, Kent flagged that there are, of course, some concerns. The main objections to allowing dogs on public transport are: the potential for dog attacks, the smell, allergies, cleanliness, overcrowding, cost, and fear from other travellers. And while these concerns all seem valid, a report carried out by Kent and other researchers found that 77 per cent of Sydneysiders “either approved or were not fussed about dogs being allowed on public transport”.
The idea of allowing dogs to jump aboard Sydney’s trains (with certain restrictions based on time of trip, spatial restrictions and breed of dog) was put to transport secretary Josh Murray, who agreed that allowing “pets on public transport is a big issue and it’s not going to go away”. Murray said that the needs of those who might be adversely affected by the change in rules would need to be seriously considered, as well as the Transport for NSW staff who “are absolutely flat out running a safe and reliable service”.
Based on Murray’s response, we’re not holding our breath, but if you agree with Kent’s stance that “it’s time to let the dogs out”, you can join the conversation here.