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Traveling by NYC public transit with a small dog

Under Section 1050.9 (h) of the Metropolitan Transit Authority’s (“MTA”) Rules of Conduct, pets may travel on NYC buses and subways if they are “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers” (as always, the container requirement does not apply to service animals).

The link to this provision changes from time to time, so I’ve taken a snapshot of it for your quick reference:


Similar provisions allow dogs in carriers on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), where your dog must be “properly confined for shipment,” and the Long Island Bus system (LIB), where “small pets may be brought on board if they are confined to an approved carrier.” [2/24/12 LIB is now operated by Veolia Transportation, and is called Nassau Inter-County Express (NICE). The customer service rep I spoke to told me that NICE has the same pet policy.]

I couldn’t find any definition of  “an approved carrier.” Practically speaking, however, it surely means a carrier similar to those required by the airlines, with sufficient ventilation panels and a waterproof bottom. It should be small enough to sit on your lap and not take up another seat.

I also couldn’t find anything written about Metro-North Railroad‘s pet policy (MNR), but the representative I spoke to said that pets under 70 lbs. are allowed as long as they are in a carrier or on a secure leash and do not cause a disturbance or pose a threat to others. The conductor is the final arbiter, if a discussion arises about your pet. [May 2011: The Metro-North web site has been updated since I wrote this post to include a pet policy: “Small domestic pets are permitted provided they’re carried in kennels or similar containers, or are securely controlled on leashes throughout the trip and do not annoy other customers. Pets should not occupy seats and are subject to approval by the conductor.” Chloe and I recently traveled on a couple of Metro-North trains.]

The Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH) allows dogs in carriers on its trains: “Unconfined animals except seeing eye dogs or other assistance animal are prohibited.”

The New Jersey Transit Corporation (NJ Transit) operates bus, light rail and commuter rail services throughout New Jersey and into New York City and Philadelphia. Its pet policy states that “Only service animals accompanying customers with disabilities or their trainers, police dogs, and small pets in carry-on travel cages are allowed on-board NJ Transit trains or buses.”

Based on the comments I’ve seen on forums where people have discussed the hazards of NYC subway and bus travel with pets (see, for example, UrbanHound’s “Hound Talk”), I strongly recommend putting your dog completely into her carrier and closing the top before you enter the subway, and keeping her contained in her carrier for the entire journey.

I also suggest printing out the relevant passages from the MTA, LIRR, LIB or PATH rules and regulations, and tucking them in a pocket of your carrier, for those maddening times when you encounter a driver or employee (or fellow passenger) who’s not aware that small dogs in carriers are acceptable. If you don’t prevail, though, consider the practical advice of a fellow traveler: “I just waited for the next bus.”

[6/12/11 Carol Vinzant from pointed me to a post she and her husband wrote about taking their two dogs, a combined 60 lbs. of lively Beagles, on several modes of NYC-area transportation, including taxis, the subway, the LIRR and the Fire Island ferry — good tips, useful info!]

For other posts about traveling with dogs on public transit, take a look at Dog Jaunt’s handy guide!


  • Kyndra

    I put my morkie in my purse whenever I take the mta or LIRR. she pokes her head out and occasionally half of her little body, no one as said anything to me

  • Willie Shapiro

    Today I took bus number 6676 with my small 4lb chihuahua contained in a bag. She was not a disturbance and just popped her head out and squealed once aat 25th st. She popped her little head out and squealed only once. Passengers around me were commenting on how cute she was.The driver came back to me at halfway my destination on 34th st and told me I had to get off he bus. The passengers were objecting, so was I since I’ve seen many dogs on buses and recently was on one myself. He said no dogs allowed “when I’m driving” and made me get off the bus and ,of course, no money back.

  • How vexing, Willie! The only thing to do, I suppose, is make a note of his name and complain to headquarters (and catch the next bus, which will hopefully have a driver who knows the rules). Ask the folks at headquarters for a credit for your fare, too — never hurts to ask.

  • Willie Shapiro

    Thanks for the support. I filed a complaint online and also called the MTA and filed a complaint. I gave them all the details and I am getting my money back. I hope this stays on his record. Some people just are power happy and get a kick out of being nasty. KARMA!

  • Osmery

    This is so helpful! And I also read the post about Leanne taking her dog and using a tote bag. Great, great tips!

  • Willie Shapiro

    Thank you so much for the information. Ever since my bad experience with the one bus driver, I’ve tried again and all the drivers I’ve encountered have been ok with my baby girl. She’s a mere 5lbs now duly grown and quiet. I take her on the train also and never a problem there. Is there anywhere where I can get these rules in print? I can’t print out on my iPad and would like to carry “ammunition” with me just in case.

  • Soonee

    In the past year I have noticed more and more that people are bringing their dogs on the subway and not in any type of container at all. I mean, walking the dog on a leash and getting on the subway. I find this really startling and much as I love dogs, I think it’s a very bad precedent. In one case the car was very crowded and you could tell the dog seemed agitated. And of course the car stopped, like they frequently do, and the dog is whimpering and antsy. What if he’d had an accident, or someone stepped on his tail, or some unbalanced person lunged at him. Or what if the dog got scared and started lunging at someone. It’s just not a good situation to bring an “un contained” pet on the train like that. Then just this week I saw a woman carrying a dog like a baby in her arms, not in a container, and the dog is wriggling and struggling to get free, all probably an anxious response to the crowds on the train. Why on earth did people start thinking they could do this? It’s always a young person (twenties) that I see doing this. I am really disturbed by the trend. Does anyone have any clues how this started?

  • dog owner


    I am sorry that other people’s choices inconvenienced you. Do you get agitated if it’s an unruly child, say a senile old person, or an unruly person with disability?

    I never bring any of my dogs (16 and 18 lbs) in any public transportation even though they are very well behaved. Not everyone reacts the same way around dogs.

    Having said that, I do understand where you are coming from. There some really irresponsible dog owners out there. I would never bring an uncontained dog in a crowded bus or train.

    As for women walking about with small dogs, usually chihuahua – you can thank hollywood actresses for that.

  • Willie Shapiro

    Have no idea but it’s not too smart. I always have mine in a completely closed bag and hold it as close as possible. One has to thinks that the dogs not encased could be hurt or run away which would be a nightmare.

  • In Sunny’s defense, it sounds like her concern is not her own happiness but that of the uncontained and nervous dogs she’s observed. A really unhappy dog, no matter how nice normally, might even be a menace to other passengers (and of course there’s the whole issue of fur from uncontained pets potentially causing problems for folks with severe allergies). It’s a really great thing that pets in carriers are allowed on board — I too wish that the rules were consistently followed, so that pets and people could both be comfortable.

  • Soonee

    Yes, Mary-Alice, you actually read my post. Clearly Dog Owner did not take the time to do that. Nowhere did I mention that I was “inconvenienced” or “agitated.” Sheesh. Should have known better than to post here. And guess what? I think a subway train with a big mound of feces and urine on the floor is not that great. So, yes, Dog Owner, I guess that would make me unhappy. I guess that now makes me a “dog hater.” Sheesh. I think it’s ridiculous and inhumane to the dog and rude to the passengers to bring a dog unconfined on a crowded, airless, and erratic subway car.

  • jase lauten

    In the UK its is perfectly fine to take any size or number of dogs on the train or bus! I have never heard of any problems caused by doing so.

  • Nico

    Use today I got into M11 bus on 9th going south bound. I had my 14 lb Boston terrier on my arm, and the bus driver stopped me from putting my mta card in, and then said no. No explanation, just no. I ride mta bus often with my dog and I never had encountered this!! The driver was unbelievably rude and I felt offended. I got off without saying anything and walked 8 miles home. If this was not legal, why did anyone tell me so in last 6 months I’ve been doing?!

  • Willie X Shapiro

    A NYC bus driver, months ago, threw me out of the bus a couple of blocks into my ride. I had my five pound chihuahua contained and quiet. People on the bus complained outloud to him but he insisted I get out. I complained to the MTA about it giving the badge number of the driver, time and route. Nothing came of it, not even a reply. So much for my rights!

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