Updated on May 7, 2014
BC Ferries’ Pet Areas: Tides Are Turning
April 19th will mark exactly three years that I’ve been a pet-toting walk-on passenger with BC Ferries. In that time, I can truly say much has changed but that so much more has not.
In these three years I’ve become part of an unspoken community of canine lovers, meeting in the bowels of BC Ferries’ ships. We’ve found camaraderie through our stories and our lamenting over our steely situations. At times we’ll watch each others’ dogs so we can take turns making a run for the bathroom. Watching our dogs wrestle WWF-style with each other always brings out laughter! Sometimes during the Christmas season, someone will be thoughtful enough to bring along some Baileys Irish cream, topping up all our coffee cups to stave off the cold air.
Photo: Mark & Andrea Busse on Flickr
We’ve learned to survive together and make do with the hand we’ve all been dealt together. And I get it – our problems are the definition of “first world problems.” That fact has not escaped me.
When I first adopted Jordy and was instantly relegated to crossing the Georgia Strait on one of the car decks, a few issues reared their ugly heads from the first voyage. On adoption day, Rebecca was with me and nabbed a video of the Coastal Renaissance’s pet area. Little did I know at the time that that was as good as it would get.
Video: Miss604 on Flickr
Following that maiden voyage, I started to blog about the pet areas on BC Ferries. I sent e-mails to head office and even to one of the captains on my usual route. I had phone conversations with customer service. It was never just about me – I was attempting to pioneer change on behalf of any and all dog owners.
Within a year, change had started to spring up on the vessels! A new dog area was installed on the fourth deck of most vessels, enclosing the pet-toting passengers, providing heat lamps and shields from the wind. It was definitely a start, and it was a great one.
BC Ferries has become increasingly responsive in dialoguing with the public, particularly on their Twitter account. Suggestions I’ve made in my correspondence with the ferries have, in fact, been taken into account. It’s fantastic to see, particularly because they’re a company with the responsibility of public accountability.
Photo: Michael Ho
So is traveling with a dog on BC Ferries’ vessels a near-perfect experience? Far from it, but it is getting better. The pet areas on BC Ferries’ vessels would be greatly improved if – at minimum – the following were swiftly implemented:
- loudspeakers for the sake of safety and sailing announcements
- running, potable water
- enough comfortable seating to accommodate passengers (nearly two hours on cold steel does not make for a happy bum)
- adjacent toilet facility (one unisex toilet, similar to what’s in place for BC Ferries’ car deck staff)
- life-saving vests available on the car decks for all of us
- garbage cans installed so as to not have to deal with the last passengers’ trash
- sanitizing spray to clean the area if we choose to (as it is not cleaned between sailings)
Like anything in life, there’s always room for improvement. After riding on the Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay route this past Easter weekend, some of the needs were glaringly obvious. On Good Friday, I counted at least 12 dogs plus passengers with enough room in the pet area for only four or five dogs. Disgustingly, I had no choice but to sit on the floor.
As ferry fares increase, more and more riders will be ditching their vehicles and walking on. BC Ferries simply must acknowledge this fact and make the safety and space amendments that are necessary. Simple improvements to the comfort level on the car decks really isn’t asking for too much either.
If you’re a pet owner, a ferry traveler, or both, please consider popping a quick e-mail to the Ferries. Change has started, so let’s keep the ball rolling!