What the Media Failed to Report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail Incident

On March 11th, 2012 an article in the paper caught my eye.  Singer Jann Arden had been “tossed” to the curb – or in this case dropped off at a small train station – by VIA Rail for having her 4-pound dog “ Midi ” with her.  This occurred between Toronto and Ottawa while the Canadian singer was on her way to the National Capital Region for a concert at the National Art Center.  At first I read the article with some amusement.

My amusement quickly faded.

What the Media Failed to Report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail Incident

Jann and Midi at the time.

Her series of tweets on the situation showed that she was upset. Like any person that is frustrated, some things were tweeted that perhaps could have been worded differently.  That is the down side of today’s instant messaging technology.  From what we can gather, Ms. Arden had been allowed to board the train without anyone stopping her.  No one had told her when she (or one of her people) had booked her ticket about the no-pet policy.  With nearly four more hours or so to go before reaching Ottawa she found herself confronted with an employee wanting to enforce the rules and was presented with two choices:

1) Put her pet in a makeshift cargo

2) Get off the train

Jann Arden chose not to put her canine companion in the suggested makeshift cargo and the famous Canadian singer was made to debark and ended up in the small train station of Oshawa.

I will not deny that Ms. Arden was greatly at fault. She obviously does not follow this blog or she would have known to never assume that a pet is welcome. I am not excusing Jann’s mistakes.  She should have checked before taking her pooch on board. To me that’s just common sense, but we are experienced “with pet” travelers – and perhaps that is the point – so is Jann Arden.

If in fact Ms. Arden tried hiding her pet and as a result of getting caught found herself in her predicament then indeed Ms. Arden had a Diva moment (She did not).  It is true that people, who think they are above the rules and break them, and then expect no consequences for their actions, give those of us trying to respect the rules and trying to work within or change a system a bad name.  These situations are always a setback for animal advocates only helping to foster the “who do you think you are” thought process in those that would see the current policies remain in place.

The anger that welled inside of me however, was directed at the Ottawa Citizen journalist rather than Ms. Arden’s situation.  The article was based purely on opinion with only one side being presented and I was bitterly disappointed in the poor quality of the reporting.  There were so many larger issues that were there for the taking. Yet it was treated as some passing, celebrity oddity instead.  The kind of reporting that is the equivalent of a journalistic tweet rather than a real story.

This kind of sloppy reporting fosters a negative attitude towards pet owners.  The reporter would have you believe that Canadian pet owners are asking VIA Rail for something out of the ordinary.  This is simply not the case and a little time and research would have proven that.

The true stories bumped under the surface just sitting there – glaring at me – with no voice.

Story #1 – VIA Rail and Service Animals

I have always been a little shocked at the level of language being used by my (Canadian, European, American and Asian) readers to describe VIA Rails’ (I quote the most recent) “hatred for pets and total dismissal of animal lovers”.  Animal lovers are often an emotional lot and I had always chalked the language up to passionate sentimentality.  That was until I heard several months before the Jann Arden “incident” of a woman that was refused entry on a VIA Rail train with her service dog because it was a “Hearing Assistance Animal” rather than a Seeing Eye Dog.

Some digging unearthed a sad find.  This disabled individual was far from the only one to have had to endure this treatment from VIA Rail.  This discovery had proven without doubt that it wasn’t just that VIA Rail did not classify itself as pet friendly – it was against animals of any kind including those working hard to better the quality of human life.

Other than the poorly named “”Blind’s Person Act” identifying Seeing Eye Dogs as service animals that must be allowed access to public places and thus public transportation there is sadly no legislation for service animals in this country.  Canada does not have a “Canadians with Disabilities with Service Animals Act”.  This is a shame for our country and one I find difficult to harmonize with my vision of Canadians as caring and compassionate individuals.  Yet, Air Canada and many other service providers are not waiting for the laws to be corrected in order to do the right thing and have gone ahead and created there own policies understanding that depriving people of their service animal’s screams of discrimination lawsuits; something that VIA Rail would do well to consider.

Examples of Service Animals include (these not always dogs):

  • Hearing Assistance Animals
  • Seizure Alert Animals
  • Psychiatric Service Animals
  • Mobility Assistance Animals
  • Diabetes Assistance Animals

Story #2 – VIA Rail a lack of safety and choice

Jann Ardens tweet that resonated the most with me was the one where she asked, “… what if I was an 86 year old and it was the dead of winter?”  It is true she is not an old lady, and certainly has the means to find other solutions.  But the tweet got me thinking.  Does via Rail do that? Because if they do you cannot argue that unexpectedly depositing a woman (or man) off at the next station is irresponsible and dangerous.  What would happen should the person then be attacked or worse?

sleeping-with-Dad What the Media Failed to Report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail Incident

Do people look freaked out by my presence? NOPE!

So we did a little research and sure enough, stories we dug up showed that VIA Rail had actually dropped people off, at closed train stations in the dead of winter… one such situation sadly resulted in the death of a woman’s pet.

I just can not seem to get my head wrapped around the fact that in all the comments on all the online papers and blogs on the subject we read that day (and the next few days); not one person seemed to be concerned that VIA Rail had this dangerous policy.  No one spoke up to suggest that perhaps kicking a person off was a tad excessive. How does this punishment fit the crime?  Wouldn’t a fine be more appropriate?

Papers later printed that Jann had been offered a makeshift cargo ride for Midi as an option.  The word makeshift is important here.  VIA Rail does not in fact actually offer cargo on all of their trips.  I know first hand that there is no cargo option between Ottawa and Montreal; at least there never has been when we have called.  In addition we do not actually know what the makeshift cargo area was going to be like for little Midi.  No one reported those details.

One of my readers had this to say:

“I would certainly travel more with VIA Rail if my 15lbs dog could travel with me. My family lives on the East Coast. My dog is allowed in cargo from Montreal to Moncton but not from Ottawa to Montreal. I don’t drive (if I did, I wouldn’t need the train) so how do I get my canine companion and me to Montreal without relying on friends/family generosity and a drive?”

So for those who would like to say “just put the dog in cargo already” well, that simply is not always an option.  For a form of Public transport, VIA Rail is not very inclusive.

Story #3 – VIA Rail and the “Allergy” card

“I was on a plane about a month ago and a girl was allergic to peanuts told the flight attendant that no one was allowed to eat nuts during the plane ride. The pilot came to talk to her and explained to her that he has no right to demand that.  The pilot continued by saying that he is allergic to cats and yet he has to fly planes with cats on them sometimes…its life and people have to learn to deal with their problems. I can understand that people do have serious nut allergies but learning to live with it is probably a better idea than demanding everyone else around you constantly change their lives. If she was that paranoid then how does she go anywhere in public?”

A reader left this comment on my facebook page when I posted about my irritation on the commenter that said, “Jann could have killed someone with allergies with her dog”.  I will, in the name of full disclosure, tell you that to us the allergy card is really getting old.  I tire of this excuse that is bandied about.  Why do I tire of this? Because people in other countries the world over, allow dogs on board their trains, buses, subways and planes without issue.  Are we then in Canada so very different?

The North American phenomenon of the majority having to bend to the minority is the only explanation.  Don’t get me wrong – allergies suck – we know this first hand. But to impose rules on what is supposed to be public transport (PUBLIC is the key word) that does not in fact represent the majority is not logical.  Mom has severe allergies to perfumes and dad is – yes wait for it – allergic to dogs.  As a result we try to be sensitive to other people’s allergies since we have them too but we do not expect others to manage our allergies for us.  Where do you draw the line? Do you rip out all the sports fields because certain people are allergic to grass? Do we remove all the flowers and trees in a city park because of allergies?  Do we start asking smokers to change clothing before getting on public transport so the residual cigarette smoke will not trigger an allergic reaction in someone? Shall we kill all the bees (and thus the planet) because some people are deathly allergic?

What the Media Failed to Report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail Incident small dog on train in Europe

Because I am such a trouble maker you see…

In addition, the statistics on pet allergies are actually really interesting. I think most people that use the “allergy card” either suffer from allergies or don’t really know the big picture. Here is a little data to muddle over:

  • Only 10% of the North American population is allergic to pets – That means 90% of the public has no allergies to pets.
  • As per the data from the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, 400 people a year die from drug allergies, 200 from food allergies, 100 from insect bite allergies and 10 from latex allergies… nowhere does it state pet allergies and if there are some, it would probably be less than 10 since they don’t even mention it.
  • Pets are allowed on most major airlines as carry on as long as they are in an airline approved carrier, have all their shots and have paid for their passage.  Passengers that declare an allergy are moved 4-6 rows away from the pet. At that distance the allergy is no longer an issue for 99.3% of people.

Another reader added: “What is more important here is that VIA Rail is missing the point completely. It’s not like the owners in other countries unclip the leash of their dogs as they enter the caboose allowing the dog to roam free. When people travel with their pet it’s a controlled environment. The dog (or cat) is either in a carrier or is crated and has been trained to be quiet. Chances are the dog has had obedience training so it responds to human command and the owner has control of the animal.  Yes – we all know about the recent cat that got loose in the plane… there will always be exceptions to the rules.  Just because two men decide to have a huge fight resulting in injuries to the passengers around them does not mean you will suddenly see a ban on “men” on trains or planes. Let us not overreact.”

Commenter’s of the article wondered why noisy dogs should inconvenience them. The weakness in the argument is that the majority of “with pet” travelers, wanting pet travel to continue its upward trend, generally do not take the opportunity for granted and ensure that their dog is well trained so as not to disrupt passengers and therefore give the new policy unwanted negative press. Unfortunately, as in every situation, there is a majority of responsible pet owners, and then there’s that pesky 2% that give a bad name to the rest.

Anyone that travels or uses public transportation has been there. Isn’t this exactly the situation with children? Most kids, when they start running around, screaming, or kicking the back of your seat, are told by a parent or guardian to stop, but again, there’s that 2% (it really does feel like more sometimes) who don’t, and who spoil public transport for everyone else.  Saying that all pets are noisy is like saying all children are disruptive. No they generally are not, but yes, there will always be the odd one that is.

If VIA Rail is concerned about their passengers then they should create policy that satisfies all parties not just the minority. They should find a solution that allows owners to bring their pets on board, and yet allows those passengers not traveling with pets to travel undisturbed.  Allow only one car to be pet friendly and charge a small fee.  That way VIA Rail can avoid fielding complaints from non-pet owners. Designating a single car per trip as a pet friendly wagon would solve the problem.  Those that have a pet in a carrier can use the pet friendly caboose those that do not like animals, have allergies or have religious reasons for not being near a dog can go into any other car. Win-Win.

Story #4 – VIA Rail and Pet Owners

The pet industry is booming in Canada, with total sales estimated at $1.2 billion, which includes food, accessories and veterinary costs. Canadians currently own a total of eight million dogs and cats. According to Statistics Canada, there are approximately 3.5 million dogs and 4.5 million cats’ in this country. That is a lot for a country with a relatively small population.  About half of all households have at least one pet, and pet owners are spending an average of $396 per year on their pets.

The new generation of pet owners is often willing and able to pay for premium products and services. This is evident with the growing number of doggie day cares and dog walking services being offered throughout the country. In comparison, surveys suggest that 36 million U.S. homes have at least one dog and another 31 million have at least one cat. That is a lot of lost business. VIA Rail is alienating an entire clientele with their policies.

As a world traveler I find it somewhat perplexing that VIA Rail continues to have the unfriendliest pet policy I have ever come across for a railway company. It paints Canada in a very negative light with the animal loving community that I find difficult to continue to “brush off” as my readers turn to me (as a Canadian) for explanations.  The reality is that VIA Rail is very behind the times on this issue. The world is becoming far more pet friendly with a large number of hotels (Fairmont’s, Best Westerns etc.) and airlines having already noticed and changed their policies. Readers want to know why there isn’t a VIA Rail pet friendly policy; most willing to pay a small fee for the privilege of bringing their small dog on board as carry on.

As one reader pointed out to me:

“I was able to fly with my 4 pound Maltese “Dixie” (as my carry on not cargo) from Montréal to Paris. From Paris I was able to take a train that took me to Copenhagen. After visiting family there – I took a train to St. Petersburg (an overnight train Dixie is indoor potty trained so not a problem) I happily paid my extra 30 Euros for my sleeper and off we went. From there I took several more trains during my trip where I ended up in Hong Kong, China – possibly the least dog friendly place I have been in the world… except perhaps for India. Yet … I am unable to take the train for 2 hours from Montreal to Ottawa to visit my Grandmother. Do you know why?”

I admit I am unable to respond and to date – much as I have tried to engage them – VIA Rail has not dignified to answer either.

In Italy, I was allowed for free, in a carrier for any train ride. In France I was allowed, on a lap but on leash on any train. In Germany dogs travel in their carriers from city to city. I have taken the train in the US.  Yet I cannot take the train in my own country. Why? … and how is this not a story?

Florence-Train What the Media Failed to Report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail Incident

Just waiting for my Train in Pisa, Italy.

I read the comments readers left online with the article that angered me so much. The sheer number of people who don’t get it amazed me. Allowing small pets on board VIA Rail in a segregated car makes good sense. The comments from the allergy sufferers (even if valid) fail to see the big picture. By allowing pets in a designated car, the allergy sufferers can stay clear of any pets. Even more infuriating – the journalists/writer’s disdain and negative attitude toward pet owners who pamper their pets was uncalled for. They are hurting no one by pampering their dog or cat, so why should this be an issue? Such broad generalizations only isolate and alienate. This simply put, is poor reporting.

I do not have any illusions of grandeur and do not believe this article will change anything.  Perhaps no one at the Ottawa Citizen wanted to take the time to do the research.  Perhaps no one has presented the “other side” – the pet friendly side – in a logical, non-emotional way, to those at the top of VIA Rails’ decision-making body.  But you really do have to wonder why VIA Rail is so stubborn, when they could make extra money on it. “Change is scary!” But we believe not being pet-friendly is a high-profile mistake on the part of VIA Rail.  They have a need for an overhaul and revisit of many of their rules and procedures.

What the media failed to report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail incident… everything that mattered.

63 Comments on “What the Media Failed to Report on the Jann Arden VIA Rail Incident

  1. great piece…well written, thoroughly researched, and passionately presented. I know there are others who have yet to speak out and they would appreciate an opportunity to join you.

  2. REALLY ……I mean come on, dogs go on planes for goodness sake. They are in the travel business, people travel with their pets, can’t they see that this would be beneficial??

    • Especially since it can be a win win scenario!! Thanks Joan! Maybe we can hold a little rally and then all go to WAG for a celebratory (I hope) coffee and cookies!

  3. I have had a few problems with Via in the past.The level of service has gone down hill.They only run a passenger service in Canada because they have to.One sunday comming back from Smiths Falls the washrooms were locked.I told them what if i was a senior and need to go to the wash room.Got back a so sorry reply.Its not cheap to take the train and i do expect something for my money.

    • Indeed Kevin, You should get service considering you paid your fee. As a Crown Corporation VIA Rail has been under the gun for a long time to start showing a profit. But instead of adding services they cut – I assume here they do not want to pay to clean bathrooms. That is bad business.

  4. I, too, am tired of the “allergy card” and VIA Rail should update the policy!!!

    I wish Canada could be a more pet friendly country….

    There are so many things they could do. e.g. having “allergy people only cart” and some allow pets

    • Yes – to be inclusive!! that is the idea I am trying to point out!

  5. That was a well thought out perspective and nicely presented. Another example that we don’t actually live in a black and white, boxed in society. We live predominantly in the grey – in the unexpected. I believe in rules, but I also believe in common sense and human consideration guided by rules especially when presented with the unexpected. Creative solutions in efforts to compromise are not hard to find – in this situation – asking surrounding passengers if they had an allergy might have been a good way to start.

    • The punishment does not fit the crime. I agree. A far more logical solution could have been found. As I said a fine for example. This policy seems archaic to us. Not to mention potentially dangerous. I am particularly annoyed at the service animal issue. But also find that there was some serious “knee jerk” reaction on the part of VIA Rail. The carts are often empty on VIA Rail … putting her away from others and fining her would have been a more humane thing to do. Thank you for your comment!

  6. The whole thing is sad, but it’s particularly shocking that they aren’t recognizing service animals unless they are for a blind person. Yikes!

    • Yes Gigi – that is VERY sad. It is what made us write the post. We were just going to brush it off but then … decided that we couldn’t … if we can change just this it would be a win.

  7. This was great! I surely hope it will play the part in the change. Thanks for writing! Even though I have never been anywhere in Canada, I am planning to visit, and it will be of course with my to Chis! So I definitely look for pet friendly options everywhere. Thanks again. I shared your article on my FB 🙂

    • Well, let us hope the change happens fast then!!! Thank you for the comment and share Michaela!!

  8. What a nightmare for Jann and her little Midi!  To be forced off the train in the middle of nowhere is excessive. It feels like discrimination to me! Their rigid rules regarding service animals also shows us how ignorant and archaic their policies are. A special pet package tour car could revitlize the railway, be great publicity, bring in revenu, create jobs that stimulates the economy. If they handle it properly they have nothing to lose!

    • Indeed – not sure how but I feel we need to find a way to get the person at the top to sit down at a table with us and explain certain things … as in WHY NOT change?!! Thanks for always so faithfully reading and participating. We appreciate it so very very much. Especially on this one – it means a great deal.

  9. Via Railway really need to get with it! So does that OC ‘journalist.” I hope they both see your blog!
    It’s my please to read your wonderful writing every Saturday morning over coffee. Your wonderful blog and Facebook page continues to be a great source for pet travel news and information. I drool daily over all of the beautiful photography and fun video you all produce and post, that I regularly share. Thank you for your support and for making Have Pet Will Travel look so good. 😉

    • The large number of people that travel with their dogs is obvious by all the quality blogs and soon shows on the subject!! I look forward to watching your program take off! (Pun intended!)

  10. Great article Monte, I really enjoyed reading it, well written and researched. I could not agree more with what you wrote and it’s very sad that Via Rail is so narrow minded, wake up it’s 2012.

    • Thank you Marcel if you have any ideas on how to get their attention then … please share!!

  11. Clearly, VIA Rail’s pet policies are outdated, and Canada desperately needs to revamp its policies to include ALL legitimate service animals. (As a Canadian living south of the border, I have found the US to be less progressive in many areas, but I must say — the Americans with Disabilities Act is far superior to Canada’s service animal policies.)

    I, too, am sick to death of the allergy card. Sadly, we live in a world where people expect that society will protect them from everything all of the time. (This is why entire schools are forced to ban peanuts because one child is allergic. It’s not that I don’t feel for the child – I just don’t believe that an entire school population ought to revolve around his/her individual needs.)

    I’m not unsympathetic to those with allergies — I myself am quite sensitive to fragrance and cigarette smoke, and have spent many a flight next to someone who stinks of one or the other. Having said that, I understand that life is about compromise. We travel regularly with our small dog and I’d be more than happy to accommodate those with pet allergies by sitting in a pet-friendly section of a train or plane, or even taking a separate pet-friendly flight if such a thing was offered. What I’m absolutely not prepared to do is give up our ability to travel with our dog to accommodate a miniscule percentage of the population.

    If airlines, railways, etc. want to offer pet-free flights, trains, seating areas, etc., we support that. But, in fairness to all, they’d better also be prepared to offer fragrance-free and peanut-free options as well, and let’s not forget germ-free options for those with compromised immune systems….

    As far as the recent situations with VIA Rail, given that apparently nobody was in allergic distress because of the presence of the dogs, why would the company not simply give the owners warnings or fines? It seems clear that the owners weren’t attempting to conceal their animals or intentionally break the rules. VIA Rail was incredibly heavy handed –- exercising terrible judgment and exceptionally poor customer service.

    • Thank you Amanda – your last sentence says it very well indeed. Heavy handed is very much what I would call it!! We suffer from fragrance allergies very very much in this household – and 25% of the population suffers versus 10% from pets. Seems odd to me that we would be so adamant against pets and yet ignore the greater. I think we need to put that card to rest. Those of us with allergies can’t live in a bubble. That is just the card we have been dealt.

      I am particularly upset about the lack of access for ALL service animals. Thanks for being such a loyal reader and commenter!

  12. Monte,
    Great job on this article. I agree with it 100% Via Rail does need to improve it’s pet policies and look into their options about offering pet friendly travel. Your suggestion about a car being pet friendly is ideal. As a pet owner who doesn’t drive, traveling anywhere with my MacPhee is nearly impossible. So more often then not I have to make arrangements for him to stay home. It’s a very sad thing. MacPhee is my family, he is my responsiblity. He should be allowed to travel with me.
    Thanks for writing this Monte and giving people a chance to comment.

    • Carolyn thank YOU for taking the time to comment. So often people will just hit the “like” button and leave it at that. But raising our collective voices in writing is so much more powerful. Who knows … perhaps we can at least open the door with VIA Rail for some real dialogue on the issue. Here is hoping that soon, as a Canadian, Paying taxes you and MacPhee will be able to use PUBLIC transport.

  13. Please let us know if you decide to start a petition. I will be the first one to sign it! I’m not sure how to open Via Rail’s eyes to this situation, it seems they just want to provide less and less service to Canadians. For the price we pay to take the train, it’s disgusting! I have to admit, I’ve travelled in first class and was very pleased with the service, but it is pretty expensive! If they are looking for more money, then give pet owners and their pets a chance to travel too. This would definitely increase their revenues. A dog/cat travelling under a seat doesn’t take up a real seat, and could bring in an extra $25-$50, whatever they chose to charge, in revenues, at absolutely no cost to them. From what I read on this blog and fb, many pet owners who presently don’t take the train would start if they could bring Fido on board. I don’t understand why an increased ridership does not appeal to them…

  14. Uh. .. her name is MS Arden… NOT MRS! How do you not know that as a responsible reporter?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

    • I am not a reporter – just a blogger and thank you for pointing that out – I shall correct this. If I may suggest that in the future you use a less aggressive tone to make your point – it is more effective. To err is human.

  15. I really appreciate Jann’s response to the article, and feel for her more than i initially did, especially after reading the haters that commented on the OC articles.

    Why are those who love their pets treated like crazy people or divas?

    i love canada and canadians, but sometimes i really think we have an inferiority complex. I read the comments on that article, and they say how “she’s only complaining cuz she’s famous and she expects special treatment” and how “us common mortals have bigger problems in life than whether pooch can sit on our lap in the train”.

    The number of times the “who do you think you are” rebuttal shows up is infuriating. Like if somehow the fact that she is not hard-working and struggling in life gives less credibility to her comments.

    …sorry, i realize that’s not really the point here, but i had to vent…

    Congrats on a well researched article, very factual and i appreciate you trying to think outside the box and respect both sides of the issue… I also know how much time you spent refining this, even taking a few days hiatus from it to re-read it with fresh eyes.

    …and to the previous commentator above me… i’m sure the author of this post will stand corrected for calling her “mrs”, but oooh, the sarcasm… *sigh* can’t we all just get along 😉

    • PS. i posted a comment on the OC article with a link to this page (not sure if it will be approved, it looked like there was a problem), but i will say here what i said there.

      I STILL think that Ms Arden was at fault: she should have checked the policy. period. I no longer think she may have been trying to sneak her pet in, but the fact is, as this article says, never take for granted that your pet can travel. and if she claims to travel as often as she does (which we know she does), then she should know this. so there is no excuse there. regardless of how many via officials didn’t stop her. it’s her responsibility to check the policy before boarding.

      other than that, i agree with all the points of this article (especially the one about managing your own allergies).

    • Thank you CosmoChick for your thoughtful comment. I agree. As someone that has traveled the world and knows Europe especially well I am often left with my head shaking in disbelief. As i mention in the post – are we Canadians then so very different. it would seem that yes – we are. You make a particularly good point – I saw this exact “oh well he is famous so it means less” attitude with James Cameron making it to the deepest part of hte ocean. People were so rude. Instead of it being celebrated as an achievement (it really is! only 3 people have done this and not in the last 50 years and not filming in 3D to bring back to us to see) – a Canadian achievement at that you got people complaining about how he was spending his own money on this and how he wasn’t the most qualified person … apparently making movies disqualifies you form having other skills, talents and passions. *sigh*

      It is a tangent and it isn’t. This is precisely why the VIA Rail polices will be almost impossible to change. In a nation built on accommodating the minority and giving them the loudest voice we are taught to feel guilty or selfish for standing up to them. The result is that 90% of the population that has no allergies … is being treated like they are insanely selfish for wanting the choice – the option – to travel with their pets. The rest of the world watches and like us … shakes their head in disbelief.

  16. I took VIA from Toronto to Halifax in 2007 as I was relocating for work. Airlines would not fly him in winter. VIA staff was exceptionally kind to me, including the fact I had a 75 pound lab in a large metal cage (as required). I was checking on my dog every hour, even though I was told only every few hours. And thank God I did check,because about half way to Nova Scotia I entered the cargo car to find the temperature set at 30 celcius. The dog was in distress. Heck, I was in physical distress in just the five minutes I waited with him until the staff came to turn the heat down. Maybe it was someone’s good intentions, but my dog would have expired if i hadn’t checked on him. After that experience I have to agree that VIA is not pet knowledgable and ergo not pet friendly. Cargo is okay for a dog, but it should be acknowledge they are living creatures, not unwelcome baggage.

    • Sue thank you so much for sharing this story with us. How terrible an experience. I am glad he is alright and that you did check on him. I wonder what would happen if we knew of every story. Thank you.

  17. Thank you so much for this article! I wrote to Via and pointed out a few of these points and they gave me the standard BS. I also had a huge blow up with a family member because they either didn’t want to understand what really happened to Jann or it’s because of me and her hatred of me. But that isn’t the point here. The point is that Jann Arden was made to look the villain and have not only her reputation unfairly criticized, but made to feel as she herself was wrong. Shame on Via Rail! I am allergic to cats/dogs since the age of 4 but have learned to live with them since 12. I love my furry babies 🙂 I do get violently ill when I am in close quarters with someone using perfume or aftershave, but I do not complain. For those of you saying Jann should have checked, did you not read that it was her assistant who bought the ticket? No offense to her assistant, we are all human and make mistakes, but to blame Jann and say she should have checked, tell me do you check everything you have someone else do for you, or do you trust them to do their job? Bottom line someone, a whole line of someones (Via Rail employees) also did not do their job! And yet Jann Arden got the bum rush because she is and easy target. Shame to those who blasted her and I am not defending her because she is Jann Arden but she is a woman and lord knows that we are easy targets not only by men but other women!

    • I find it the most surprising when dog lovers are opposed. Especially since what I proposing is one wagon being pet friendly only. Thank you for your comment! Maybe you should send this link to your family! 🙂

  18. I also cannot travel with VIA, as I have an anxiety assistance dog, whom they will not allow on the train. My dog is trained in many ways, including barking and potty training. My dog is a 17 pound Schnauzer mix, which also classifies him as Hypoallergenic. Greyhound has been very helpful for travel purposes 🙂 Thank you for the article, its nice to know others think Via is way off base!

  19. Exceptionally well written, fair to all parties, bravo!

    I will say that I find the usage of “the allergy card” offensive. I am highly allergic to numerous animals (including the so called, hypoallergenic animals. Do some research people, this word was invented by the cosmetics industry and DOES NOT mean, “no one is allergic to X”).

    I can’t breathe in a confirmed space with a pet. I cannot breathe with the assistance of allergy medication, in a confined space because the allergen is still there.

    I understand the emotions of pet companionship and wish I could experience it too. But, in my opinion, your precious snowflake, does not trump my right to breathe and keep my booked transportation ticket.

    For the record, I am also pro-sedating children for travel. Call me a bad mother, I’m a polite traveller.

    • Hi Sylvie,

      I appreciate your comment because you speak of experience. I have allergies and in fact have had asthma for the past 3-4 years (that i never had before) due to over exposure of living with my cat.

      But i don’t go through what you go through, so i’m sorry that you have to experience this. It must be very difficult since you can never know which public space you will find yourself in and be confronted with the stress of what happens to you.

      I appreciate you coming here to post and being polite about it, so i hope you don’t mind me asking you some questions (its rare that i get to dialog with opposing views on this topic because its usually just insults):

      – how do you feel about the idea suggested above to have a separate cart for those travelling with pets? I just think that if people like you, who are opposed (i understand, you have no choice) to having pets in public spaces could voice positively for a compromise, it would be going a long way

      – how do you deal with it when a service dog shows up and is with someone sitting close to you? Just curious…

      – what are your views on those who are allergic to fragrance (higher percentage than pet allergies), what should they do? How would you address the issue?

      I would love to hear back from you, and thanks again for being polite and well-spoken when replying…


    • Thank you Sylvie for this amazing comment – I do hope you will return to respond to CosmoChick’s good questions. Thank you for being polite and engaging in the conversation rather than making it a debate where no one is listening.

    • Why? Why must i leave my pet at home when he’s part of my family just like kids are. Why can i not enjoy my vacation with my pet because less than 10% of the population is allergic?

      Please don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying i don’t respect your needs. I do. The author of this post CLEARLY does. But why does it have to be black or white? Can’t we find alternative situations that keeps everybody happy?

      • As I wrote in the blog – why is it that we can’t agree to find a win win situation. Life is many shades of grey. A single wagon is all that is needed. There is also the primary issue of service animals. Seing-eye dogs are not the only service animals and yet they are the only ones allowed on VIA Rail. Even if you agree pets should not have access – can we truly ask those that have service animals to do the same? After the money, the training and the new found freedom for these people is it the Canadian way to deny them this assistance?

  20. Hi Lyne,

    i love your passion and agree whole-heartily with what you said. I think that everyone has the right to speak up and relate their experience, and i too didn’t feel that she was using her fame. I’m glad she spoke up.

    However, i do disagree with saying that because it was her assistant that booked the tickets, it was somehow less her fault, that’s a bit of a “the dog ate my homework” copout.

    ok, it wasn’t directly Jann’s fault, and yes, everyone makes mistakes… but the point is, a mistake WAS made. VIA has a no-pet policy, it’s clearly written. Whether the traveler noticed it or not, that’s not really the point right? I’m pretty sure there’s a list of things that cannot be brought onto the train, and if you violate that, you’re also in the wrong. And also, whether the first 2 or 3 employees noticed or not is not the point.

    HOWEVER, what i think we agree on is that nuance could have been used. Had the first few employees noticed, they could have stopped her from boarding the train (less of an inconvenience). Once she was on her way, it was not fair to throw her out. The impact of not letting someone on a train that hasn’t left yet is different from asking them to disembark 1/2 way.

    ok, i will stop answering everyone’s comments now and let Monte, the author, actually get a word in! 🙂

  21. I am a dog owner, and I love dogs. I tend to be seeing “pet related rules” with biased eyes, probably unconsciously. If you really care for your dogs, and healthy growth of dog/pet loving communities, you should be educate yourself with such rules, so you know “both” sides of says and logics. This is an amazing report that is fair, and I would suggest any of my dog lover friends to read it to get wider perspectives. Great work !!

    • Thank you Yumi! I am so flattered you stopped in and read this article and felt strongly enough about it to leave a comment! Please do share … and in the meantime I will continue to see what can be done to change some of this dogscrimination!

  22. Thank you for this article! I just had a bad experience with this tonight: I had my dog in the “checked cargo” from Toronto to Windsor. I arrived in Windsor, and rather than picking up my dog at the baggage desk, like I was told to do, I found my dog carrier sitting outside the train. It was 10 pm, -3 degrees, 4 inches of snow on the ground, and still snowing. 10 minutes had passed by since she was unloaded, and she was soaking wet and freezing. If I had been allowed to keep my dog (a 7 pound shih-tzu who travels on a plane with me about 8 times a year) with me, this would have never happened.

    Oh, and to all those people who say that they are allergic to dogs: I guarantee that there are dogs on the majority of flights you take. They are quite and sit at the owners feet, and no one ever realizes that they are even there!

    • Oh Halley I hate hearing about these stories. People just don’t treat animals with the dignity and respect they deserve. They would never have done that to a human child right?

      I think it is time we did something – just not sure how to take on a Crown Corp. I would recommend you send them an email – or letter – and see what they have to say for themselves. It’s animal abuse – there are laws that protect your pet. Perhaps look them up and see if you can “ding them” with anything.

      Sad … sad… sad. BOOOOO on you Via Rail! Yet again.

  23. Via treats pet owners badly because they treat everyone badly. They greatly helped me overcome my fear of flying! The last time i used via was returning to toronto after burying my father in new brunswick. As one of the porters approached me i turned off my headphones while leaving them on my head and he mumbled at me so i said “i beg your pardon” to which he replied ” if you’d take those things off your head you could hear”. A nice lady beside me gasped in polite shock and whispered to me after that she had never heard anything so rude. And please pet owners, do NOT put your pets in the cargo area. They are not safe there.
    There are no requirements for pet carriers and i was told by a via employee about a dog getting loose and killing a cat during travel.

    • Thanks for joining us Cathy! We have never truly recommended cargo – unless there is absolutely no other way – such as big dogs flying. You might be interested in knowing that I am in talks with VIA to change the policy – allowing the last car of every train to be marked with a PAW PRINT to indicate it is pet friendly. But it is a LONG road still.

      I am sorry this happened to you. I hope you filed a complaint!

      • Hi Monte,

        It is good to see a more recent post (from 2015, rather than the original 2012!) and even better to hear you were talking with VIA about changing their policy. Do you have any update on engagement with them – i.e., is it still ongoing, has it gone anywhere?

        I am currently on the train from Ottawa to Toronto for a funeral in the family. I would have taken a plane if it was not so last minute. I have looked at this page a few years ago, but looked it up again due to my recent experience today with VIA.

        I have a 70 lbs Lab/Brittany mix who happens to be named Monte, no joke.

        I searched VIA’s pet policy and found that they have cargo cars on the ‘Corridor’, ‘Eastern’, and ‘Canadian’ lines to accommodate large pets in carriers. I also looked at their network map, and although I was skeptical that Ottawa to Toronto would actually be corridor, looking at the map, it is on the ‘corridor’ for the most part and didn’t appear to be named otherwise. It is also shown in the same colour as the Corridor line. So even with a schematic of the system, it is not clear what each of these VIA lines are actually called and how to distinguish between the nuances. Meanwhile, in VIA’s pet policy, there is no mention of an exception where pets in cargo cannot be taken due to there being no baggage car for this route. But of course, upon calling VIA rail, they tell me it is not possible to take a pet in cargo between Ottawa and Toronto. This is bizarre to me. The reasoning the staff had was because CN will not allow an additional car on the Ottawa-Belleville section of the line for baggage. I am not sure if this is actually true, but I would love to find out why there is no baggage car on this line. This train is a meager link of 6 or 7 cars, which pales in comparison to a real freight train. I also wish VIA would more accurately communicate the details on their website so that people like me who are taking the time to look things up in advance don’t waste time making plans and arrangements to do something that appears is possible but actually isn’t.

        I hear WestJet is really good with pets, having a compartment specifically for them and having rip-tags on the carriers that they give to the owner to physically confirm the pet is on the correct flight with you. If this is all true (I have not yet flown with my dog Monte), VIA should open themselves to benefiting from the progress true leaders in this area have made.

        While it is true that it is difficult for many people that do not have pets to appreciate the magnitude of such a bond with an animal, it is just plain reasonable to be able to travel around the country with a pet if it is well-trained. In this case I did not want to drive because I am tired and the train is a more environmentally-friendly option and also cheaper than solo driving! I wanted to take my dog Monte because my partner is working hard saving lives on 24 hour call for 2 days that I must be attending a funeral in the family. Also, it was last minute and I could not arrange for any reasonable alternatives. Finally, although Monte is not a service dog, he is a certified therapy dog and I was looking forward to him being around when my family gathers, as he is a sweet dog that, like other therapy dogs, contributes to positive improvement to people’s lives. I want to be clear that I am not saying he should have been given a rite of passage like a service dog and their handler, but that for a variety of reasons, people hope to be able to travel with their dogs in accordance with a reasonable policy from the carrier.

        The train is a great option. VIA is an unaccommodating option.

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  28. Hi Monty.

    A fellow (Torontonian) Chi here (well, a Chiweenie really, but the personality is definitely Chi…).
    Just wanted to let you know I love your blog, and I know that my biped does too. Keep up the good work, us small traveling dogs need all the support we can get.
    My biped is taking my brother Camillo and I on a trip to Europe in April and I would love to be carried in a sling like the one your dad is wearing in the picture above. Any chance you can tell me where my biped can buy one?

    Thanks for all your (and your biped’s) work!


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