Snakes on a train? OC Transpo risks becoming ‘Noah’s Ark,’ councillor warns

Cats, small dogs — and yes, even snakes — could soon be allowed aboard OC Transpo trains and buses, and at least one city councillor is warning fur will fly when the change takes effect.

Ottawa’s transit commission passed a motion Wednesday to allow small pets in carriers on all buses and light rail trains, starting this spring. That will extend to the new Confederation Line after the LRT system begins operating later this year.

Currently, only service animals are allowed aboard OC Transpo.

However exactly what constitutes a “small pet” became a point of contention during Wednesday’s meeting.

“I have to think it’s probably more than just cats and dogs. It could be snakes on a train, who knows? Maybe Noah’s Ark by the end of the day,” said Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney, who suggested passengers might even start bringing pet skunks along for the ride.

In fact, pet snakes or skunks — however unlikely — could technically be allowed under the new rules, according to Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo’s director of planning.

Lap-sized carrier

The only restriction is that an animal has to be small enough to fit inside a lap-sized container so it won’t interact with other passengers, Scrimgeour said.

Tierney also questioned how passengers with severe allergies would be affected. But Sabrina Phoenix, an OC Transpo user who addressed the commission, dismissed that concern.

“On a regular day, the amount of pet hair, dander and saliva I have present on my clothing and personal belongings I believe is far more superior than what my animal would produce while in their carrier on board the bus or train,” Phoenix said.

The university student told the commission she’s on a limited budget and can easily spend $25 on a taxi or Uber ride to take her cat to the nearest vet.

Scrimgeour said in the event a passenger suffers a severe allergic reaction, transit operators are trained to provide medical assistance.

Bikes get green light

The commission went against the recommendations of both city staff and chair Stephen Blais by voting to allow bicycles aboard Confederation Line trains at all times, instead of just during off-peak hours.

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