COMMENT:

On first read, the idea is barking mad. The concept of being able to take our pets - our cats, our dogs, our ferrets, our kunikuni pigs - on public transport sounds chaotic at best; unsafe at worst.

And yet Auckland Council resolved nearly a year ago to unanimously support pets being allowed on all modes of public transport.

Now, Councillor Cathy Casey is demanding that Auckland Transport deliver on that resolution and conduct a six-month trial with a view to seeing pets allowed on our buses and trains.

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She cites examples of European cities where it is commonplace to see owners and their dogs on all forms of public transport and under tables in pubs, cafes and restaurants. It's normal there, she says, and she's right.

What, asks Casey, is the problem? What, she cries, is New Zealand so afraid of?

Well, speaking personally, it's because I don't trust my fellow Kiwis. I really don't. We had Toby the border collie for 16 years and though we loved him very much, I don't expect the other passengers on the 105 from Grey Lynn to the city to be quite so enthusiastic about him.

And having taken Tobes to dog parks twice a day for 16 years, I've seen how idiotic some owners are with their dogs.

They let them bound up to all and sundry, and excuse their jumping up on people and tackling other dogs as exuberance or high spirits. They find their dog's endless yapping charming - "Ooooo, little man has soooo much to say." Others may not be quite so enchanted.

In Europe, people are used to accommodating others. They live cheek by jowl in tiny apartments and are forced to share public spaces. And the shared spaces really are that - spaces that are shared and respected by all who use them.

We have a different way of life here. We've got more room, we're used to being able to do our own thing, our rights are more important to us than any responsibilites we have to the greater community.

People like Casey believe that if they want to take their dog into the city with them on public transport, they should have every right to do so and others must accommodate that desire. Too bad if you don't like animals or you have allergies or you had a terrible childhood incident that put you off dogs for life ... and too bad if you want to ride the bus on a rainy day sitting alongside a golden retriever and his owner.

People smell bad enough when they've been soaked - a kind of wet wool, egg sandwich combo unique to damp humans - and wet dogs are a whole lot worse.

And why do people want to travel with their dogs? Dogs have four feet and they love walks. If dogs could talk, I'm sure they'd be voting for walking to a particular destination rather than hopping on the local bus and taking a ride.

Casey argues that public transport travel for dogs benefits everyone but offers little in the way of evidence. Dogs benefit from getting used to being in different social situations. People, she says, benefit from having animals around. That's it. End of evidence.

Frankly, it's not good enough.

She claims that owners know their dogs and they won't put people at risk if their dog isn't ready for public transport. She says the only dogs we will see on leash on buses are the ones dog owners know can be trusted to behave around all people and other dogs.

Really, Cathy? Come on. Clearly, she has a much greater faith in her fellow humans than I do. It's been hard enough for AT to get people out of their cars and on buses - there'll be even more reluctance if we know we're going to have to share our ride with every man and his dog.