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Paws on the Move: Commuting with Pets

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A woman rides the bus with her dog in her lap

For some pet parents, when it comes time to travel with your pet, it’s an easy process of just putting them in the car and then driving to your destination. However, for individuals who don’t use a personal vehicle for transportation and instead take taxis, buses, trains, and even ferries, commuting with their pet can be much more of a process. 

Commuting With Pets

Commuting with pets is a common activity, especially since there are many benefits to bringing your dog to work with you. Though it is undeniably fun to have your dog be with you throughout the day, sometimes, the process of getting your four-legged friend from one destination to the next may prove to be a little stressful at times.

When looking at public transportation, particularly when you live in a larger city, there are often multiple means of travel from which you can choose. But, for you and your pet, some options may be a better fit than others.

Are Pets Allowed in Taxis?

Pets are allowed in some taxis, but this can vary significantly from one company (or one driver) to the next. One of the best ways to be prepared is to call the cab company ahead of time and double-check their policy. You may also want to double-check if they have any pet size restrictions.

If your pet is small enough to fit in a carrier, this is the preferred method of travel, but of course, many canines are far too large to fit in travel totes, and you’d need some serious muscles to be picking them up.

Before hopping in the taxi, make sure your pal has a chance to use the restroom. If they are prone to an unsettled stomach in the car, be sure to give them some veterinarian-approved motion sickness relievers a reasonable amount of time before your ride.

If your pup is too large for a carrier, make sure their paws are as clean as possible before they enter the taxi. You can even lay down a blanket or towel before they enter, just to keep the car as clean as possible. Remember, taxi drivers rely upon their vehicles being as clean as possible so that they can continue to pick up more customers. Therefore, it is best to keep any dog drool or pet hair contained as much as possible.

However, accidents can happen, and in the instance that your pal would make a mess in a taxi, they can charge you extra for any necessary car cleaning fees.

Infographic titled 'Safety Tips for Commuting with Pets'. It details essential gear and tips for safe commuting with pets by car, bus, or train. Includes items such as food and treats, medication, vet contact information, poop bags, a travel crate or carrier, collar with ID tags and leash, familiar toy, fresh water and portable bowls, and a blanket. Tips include leaving early, checking pet policies in advance, and ensuring all ID tags and microchip information are current.

Are Pets Allowed in an Uber or Lyft?

Unlike taxi services, where each car is owned by the company but operated by individual employees, rideshare drivers use their own vehicle. For pet parents, this means that finding a pet-friendly ride may not be quite as easy.

One of the most efficient ways to go about this process is to request a ride, and as soon as you are assigned a driver, immediately contact them to check if your pet will be allowed in their car. If the driver doesn’t allow pets, you can cancel your ride and book another one. Keep an eye out that you aren’t accidentally charged a cancelation fee, in which case you can contact the company for reimbursement.

After finding a driver who does allow your pet, use similar guidelines as a taxi. In other words, use a carrier if your pet is small enough to fit in one and for larger dogs, make sure to clean their feet before they hop in the vehicle and lay down a towel or blanket for them to sit on for the duration of the ride.

Are Pets Allowed on the Ferry?

The guidelines for pets on ferries will vary from one ferry to the next. Because rules can be quite different, it’ll be essential that you check ahead of time for the specific ferry you are considering taking.

Even if pets are allowed, it’s still necessary to look into additional restrictions, such as size requirements, carrier or leash rules, and any essential documents you may need to bring along.

You may also want to look ahead at the weather for the days you will be traveling with your pet. On many ferries, you may be using outdoor seating, in which case traveling during hotter temperatures may not be ideal. However, it can be helpful to bring along a bowl and some water for your pal.

Are Pets Allowed on Trains?

Whether pets are allowed on trains or not is determined by the specific train operator and the state through which you’ll be traveling. Even when trains do allow pets, there are often still restrictions you’ll need to follow.

For instance, many trains require pets to be less than a particular weight and be in a carrier during their entire trip. Even prior to boarding, you may need to pay a pet fee and fill out pet-related forms. Depending upon the train operator, bringing along a pet carrier may also be counted as one piece of your checked luggage allowance, so you will need to factor this in when packing your bags. Some operators may also have special allowances for pets based on holidays and weekends.

Can Pets Travel on Amtrak?

Pets can travel on Amtrak, but pet parents should be aware of the guidelines. For instance, Amtrak welcomes pets on trips that are up to seven hours in total travel time. If traveling with a pet, you will need to pay a small fee or use your Amtrak reward points to cover the charge. You may only bring one pet, and they must be no more than 20 pounds (as a combined weight with their carrier).

You will also need to make a reservation for your pet, as there is a limit to how many are allowed per train. Take note: pets are not permitted in various areas of the train, such as sleeping or food service cars. All pets traveling on an Amtrak train will need to be up to date on their vaccinations, at least eight weeks old, and be comfortable staying in their carrier for the entire journey.

Before traveling with your pet, you will also want to double-check that the train and route you are interested in allows pets, as some exceptions do not. You will also need to sign some paperwork before your trip as well.

Are Dogs and Cats Allowed on Buses?

Buses, just like trains, will vary per company and even per city on the rules for pets. While not all are pet-friendly, for the ones that are, the general rule is that pets, either dog or cat, must be small enough to fit in a carrier that can sit on your lap. 

If you’re aware of the bus system you plan to use in advance, check their website or contact them to familiarize yourself with their policies on bringing pets on board. Note that some buses may charge a pet fee. Depending on the city you are traveling or commuting through, you may encounter various unique situations. San Francisco, for example, permits small, medium, and large dogs to ride on their cable cars, historic streetcars, and trolleybuses.

Most of the time, whenever a bus allows a dog to ride, they will also let a cat ride—it helps that cats are smaller in size (compared to many dogs) and can better fit in carriers. That said, it’s best not to assume and still double-check your bus’s pet policy ahead of time.

It’s important to note that Greyhound buses nationwide do not allow cats or dogs as passengers. Not even Greyhound dogs make the cut!

Ready to hit the road with your furry bestie? Traveling with your dog is so much more than just a trip. It’s about making memories that’ll last a lifetime.

Man with mobility cane navigates a parking lot with his seeing eye dog

Service Animals: An Exception to the Rules

The American Disabilities Act (ADA) defines services animals as “dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Service animals are different from emotional support animals (ESAs).

Whether it be a train, bus, or taxi, operators and drivers are legally not allowed to turn away an individual and their service dog. Even individual drivers for Uber still must follow this law. Service dogs are additionally exempt from size restrictions.

Keep in mind that misrepresenting your dog as a service dog is considered a misdemeanor in many states, and you can be charged some hefty fines.

Will you be flying with your cat, taking an extended trip where you’ll need to spend the night somewhere, or possibly even traveling with two cats? Read up on some additional tips on how to travel with your cat.

How to Commute With a Pet: 3 Easy Steps

If your four-legged best bud is joining you on your daily travels, there are a few steps you can take ahead of time to help decrease stress for the both of you.

  1. Give yourself plenty of time. With your dog in tow, you may need some extra time to get yourself situated, for them to use the restroom, and even for random people who may stop you to either comment on or try to pet your dog. All of these small items can quickly add up, and before you know it, you may be running late.

    To avoid tardiness and to have a stress-free commute, give yourself some extra time. Try leaving about 15 minutes earlier than normal and gauging from there if you still need more time. By not rushing, your dog will pick up from you that they have no reason to feel stressed either.

  2. Pack the essentials. Whether you opt to pack your cat or dog’s essentials in your own bag or carry a dedicated bag for them, it's always a good idea to be prepared by having all the necessary items your furry friend may require during the day. Essential supplies such as poop bags, a portable water dish, food, treats, a collar with ID tags, any needed medication, toys, their carrier, and a cozy blanket can ensure your pet’s comfort and well-being. It’s also handy to have their veterinarian information on hand just in case. Since you know them best, you can customize their day out on the town with the items that suit them perfectly. 
  3. Be proactive. Before your commute, whether you will be traveling by bus, train, or taxi, check ahead of time about their pet policies—you may find that one type of transportation is a better fit than others for your pet.

If you are bringing your pet to join you at the office for the day, don’t forget to check your work’s policy about pets before you bring in your own. Many places will ask that your pal meets specific requirements and may even request a copy of their vaccination and veterinarian records ahead of time. 

Learn more about how pet insurance could help you cover your pet’s eligible veterinary care expenses.

It can also be helpful to look at the animal hospitals and veterinary clinics near your workplace—specifically, if it is far away from the veterinarian you usually visit. Last but certainly not least, try to have recent photos of your pet available either at your desk, in your wallet or purse, or, more likely, on your phone. 

Even if you aren’t taking your pet with you to your job every day, you’ll still need to take them to the veterinarian for regular checkups. Maybe your pup goes to doggie daycare, or you have to send your cat to stay with a pet sitter to ensure they’re taken care of while you’re on vacation, they’ll need to get there somehow! And if you’re adopting a new pet, it may be up to you to transport them home. 

No matter the destination, commuting with your pet via car, bus, train, or other public transit doesn’t have to be a stressful experience. Who knows? With these tips, they may one day learn to love the ride!  

An ASPCA® Pet Health Insurance plan can help you with eligible costs for covered conditions like surgery expenses for accidents and help provide peace of mind that your pet can receive the care they need. Check out our online resources to learn more about your insurance options and get a free quote today. The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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