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Pets get access to outdoor decks on more BC Ferries sailings

Move follows ‘overwhelmingly positive’ feedback from pilot program, says ferry corporation
Pets riding BC Ferries now have more access to outdoor deck space. (News Bulletin file photo)

Families travelling on B.C.’s coast will now have extra room to travel with their fur-babies, with an addition of upper deck pet-friendly areas on the Queen of Surrey and the Queen of Coquitlam ferries.

BC Ferries requires all non-service dogs and cats to stay in designated pet areas or in vehicles, limiting the number of decks travellers can visit with their pets.

Outer deck areas were first made accessible to travellers’ furry companions in 2022 on the Earls Cove-Saltery Bay route, then some of the vessels on the the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay and Powell River-Comox routes in 2023.

“The indoor pet areas vary in size from vessel to vessel since some of our vessels are quite large now and have multiple pet areas and some have smaller pet areas,” said Colin Zak, a spokesperson for BC Ferries. “On the new upper deck areas you’re looking at about 2,000 [square] feet.”

He said public engagement feedback from those trips was “overwhelmingly positive.” On average, 92.5 per cent of respondents were in favour of expanding the pet areas to the outer decks of other ferries. In addition, the number of passengers travelling on BC Ferries with pets nearly doubled, from 5.5 per cent in 2018 to 9.9 per cent.

“We did quite a bit of consultation, not only incorporating the extensive feedback we got from customers, but we also worked with the SPCA as well … and they helped us develop a staff training video for our people,” Zak said.

Despite the new addition, dogs still are required to be kept on a one-metre leash and cats must stay in a travel carrier while on the outer decks.

Leon Davis, senior manager with Vancouver Island and Coastal B.C. SPCA, said he was thrilled to hear of the change, calling it a “big improvement.”

“This is going to increase the welfare and enrichment of not only animals that get to benefit from this, but the people as well. What a better experience to be able to travel with your pet and experience some time outside?” he asked.

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Davis said leaving pets that have seperation anxiety locked in a vehicle during a long ride can be difficult on them.

“This way they get to be outside in the fresh air, stretching their legs with their owners. It’s a much more enriching experience and less fearful, I would think, for animals who get anxious while travelling,” he said.

Guests can find the pet-friendly areas by following a designated stairwell, marked with paw prints, or using a designated elevator for those with accessibility needs.

Zak said the outdoor decks will be open to pets year-round.

Water bowls and waste bags will be provided, and BC Ferries said the area is cleaned regularly.