Bus rider seeks dog-friendly transit for Greater Victoria

Campaign aims to convince B.C. Transit to change policy

Esquimalt resident Robert Ganton watches a bus go by on Burnside Road. He is collecting names on a petition asking B.C. Transit to allow leashed dogs

The simple things in life can become more meaningful when illness or injury limits a person’s activities and abilities.

For Esquimalt resident Robert Ganton, 61, chronic epilepsy rendered him unable to drive two years ago. Add in a successful battle with prostate cancer and it’s easy to see why he feels strongly about the importance of being able to spend lunchtimes with his wife, Gill.

Daily during the week he takes the bus downtown to meet her for her lunch break. The couple generally goes for a walk, often through Beacon Hill Park. Making that experience even better, he says, would be having their beloved dog along.

Except B.C. Transit doesn’t allow leashed dogs on its buses, other than guide dogs for the visually impaired or other types of assistance, or “working” dogs. Passengers may carry dogs in containers, but Ganton doesn’t have a carrier.

Told last month about the company’s rules, he took to the street to solicit signatures in support of a change in policy around dogs on buses.

“I had a couple of people say they don’t agree with the plan, or are allergic to dogs, but for the most part, everybody seems to think it’s a great idea,” he said.

Ganton has secured more than 200 signatures to date, including one from a woman who told him of Calgary’s policy. There, non-service dogs on a leash, or those in containers, may travel on buses and the light-rail transit system. Pet owners must pay full adult fare for any dogs other than service dogs.

“I like the idea. The smaller dogs can sit on your lap and (for) the bigger dogs that take up a lot of space (owners) should pay for it. Everybody seems to get along with that,” Ganton said.

His inquiry into the rules here was inspired during a trip to Toronto earlier this year, when he saw people bringing leashed dogs on the bus.

Toronto Transit Commission rules state that dogs on leash or in containers may travel on buses, but only during specific non-peak hours – morning and afternoon/evening commuting times are excluded.

B.C. Transit spokesperson Meribeth Burton said the company has no plans to change its pets on the bus policy anytime soon.

“It has everything to do with the safety and comfort and liability of our passengers and operators,” she said.

“We’ve had people let us know (their feelings about dogs on buses) and I personally have received many calls saying ‘we support your (policy), B.C. Transit.’”

The Gantons, whose older, larger dog had to be euthanised just last week at 16, have a car to take their pets to appointments on weekends, but that doesn’t help Robert during the week.

He says other pet owners, such as the elderly, who either cannot drive or don’t have a vehicle would benefit from a change in Transit’s policy.

He plans to continue collecting names and is looking for help with his campaign.

Interested volunteers can call 250-361-9380 or send an email to gganton@shaw.ca.

editor@vicnews.com