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Dogs (and other pets) allowed!

April 5th 2012 by Denis Pinsonneault

VIA Rail’s pet policy recently made headlines. While we have always collected customer feedback through market research, email, phone calls and in-person interactions, we have recently added social media to our toolset. Although sometimes the comments can be quite brutal, we appreciate the feedback. It challenges us to look at what we do with a fresh perspective and may ultimately lead to improvements.

So, following that coverage, we looked at our pet policy and found it to be appropriate for the following reasons:

- Hygiene: While our cars are cleaned before and after each departure, pet hair can get into tough to reach places and contribute to a dirty environment. Additionally, some pets are well potty trained and others, not so well trained. This makes it difficult for us to allow some pets but others. Finally, we do have food and food preparation stations on board that we need to keep clean, similar to restaurants.

- Sensitivity/allergies: Certain pets are hypoallergenic. However, this doesn’t mean that they will not affect allergy sufferers, only that the breed may be more compatible with allergy sufferers than other breeds – even this is not certain. Since some allergy sufferers cannot be near animals at all, VIA Rail offers a pet-free travel environment where they know they will not be affected.

- Space restrictions: You may have noticed that we have a few different types of equipment. Since the size and shape of cages can also vary, we can’t guarantee the necessary space for pets to sit with their owners on all of our trains.

It is important to note that passengers travelling with pets may still do so on certain trains when baggage car services are available. VIA Rail has recently increased the number of routes with trains offering baggage car service in order to accommodate the needs of more passengers, and pet owners can also take advantage of this service. During the trip, owners can make arrangements with our staff at any time to visit with their pet, and on longer trips, pets can be taken off the train briefly at longer stops.

Also of note is that all service animals certified by accredited trainers are accepted on board VIA trains, not just seeing-eye dogs.

Some comments have suggested creating special passenger cars where pets are allowed to travel with their owners. After reviewing this suggestion, we determined that limited equipment availability and the process of cycling this equipment to other trains, where it may no longer be a special passenger car, makes this an operational challenge and one that we can’t pursue at this time.

We’ve decided to leave things as they are, at least for the time being. Creating a pleasant and enjoyable travel experience for all of our passengers is still our priority, and there’s still the opportunity for passengers to travel with their pets. We’ll continue to collect feedback on the policy and revisit it over time.

Your feedback is always appreciated, and we’d be happy to hear from you in the comments below or using the VIAevolution email contact form.

About Denis Pinsonneault

Denis Pinsonneault
As Chief Customer Experience Officer, Denis Pinsonneault is in charge of activities directly related to customer experience within stations and on board trains. He also supervises Real Estate to ensure synergy between those who do station maintenance and those who work in stations. Moreover, he oversees Customer Advocacy Teams, which ensure the regular exchange of information as well as consistency of customer experience support activities.
11 Comments Leave one →
  1. Melissa permalink

    And that’s why I don’t take the train in Canada. They have NO problem with hygiene or allergies in Europe. I wonder why that is?

    • Melissa. I have to ask… If you don’t take the train in Canada, WHY ON EARTH are you reading VIA’s corporate blog? I don’t ride by goat in Kyrgyzstan, so I don’t spend my free time reading messages from the Kyrgyzstan Goat and Yak Transportation Commission. Go find a hobby.

      • Véronique permalink

        Bahahaha <3 the comment. Thanks for the laugh. :)

      • Tom West permalink

        She’s explaining why she doesn’t take the train. Myabe (like me) she was hopeing this blog would reveal a chnage in policy.

  2. Mary Lou permalink

    Thank you so much for sticking to your guns! I enjoy riding the train, but do not want to ride the train with other people’s pets. I will put mine in the baggage car (or leave them at home) and not bother anybody with them, and would appreciate it if the same courtesy was afforded to me. I agree with the reasons for your decision, especially concerning sanitation. I wish airlines and hotels that advertise themselves as “pet friendly” would remember that paying customers without pets are just that, PAYING customers. Do they have the right as part of the contract of service to travel without the annoyance, noise and smell (and perhaps worse) of a dog or cat or snake or gerbil or… I say yes.

  3. Debra McPherson permalink

    I love my dogs & would love to be able to take a train trip with them by my side. However, I recognize that not everyone else is comfortable with them either because they don’t like dogs or for health (allergy) issues. On the other hand I’m asthmatic. I see my not being able to travel with my dogs as the same as smokers not being able to smoke in the rail car with me. It’s great to have a choice, but when your choice adversely affects others, you have to show some consideration for their comfort (& safety). If you really want your dog with you (or want to smoke, for that matter), then make other arrangements for a more private trip.

  4. Jim permalink

    Like!

    Thank you for keeping your existing policy. As an allergy sufferer, I appreciate this. Many people with breeds that are “hypoallergenic” have the false notion that their dogs won’t affect sufferers. If you are allergic to dogs, you are allergic to all dogs. It’s just the reaction or rate of reaction that may be different from breed to breed.

  5. Jody permalink

    Thank you so much for not making any changes to your current policy. I have severe allergies to all animals and am very relieved that I may still buy a ticket to ride the train without having to worry about people bringing their animals on as well. I wish the airlines would take a page out of your book, it is not very often now that you can go on a plane free of animals and not have to share the air with someone’s dog or cat. I am not an animal hater but they sure make me miserable when I am near them. This decision makes me want to ride and support train travel even more.

  6. lise permalink

    Sooo glad to hear pets aren’t being allowed in the passenger areas!

    Thank you for keeping VIA travel civilized for those of us who care! : )

    P.S. It would be nice if VIA had disposable paper covers for their headrests.

  7. Steven permalink

    Ok great no changes!,that’s why my next trip I will not take the train and continue to fly the friendly skies.

  8. Tom West permalink

    My suggestions for how to accomdate pets on board trains:
    Hygiene – don’t allow pets in food preperattion areas. Ensure that passengers are responsible for any mess their animal makes (your dog poops, you pay for the extra clean-up).
    Sensitivity/allergies – designate one car pet free.
    Space restrictions – count aninal crates as pieces of luggage towards your allowance. Apply the same rules for crates sizes as for other luggage sizes.

    For an example of how other countires do it, see http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/passenger_services/luggage_animals.html

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