LCQ16: Boarding public transport with pets
Quite a number of members of the public have relayed that currently operators of most of the modes of public transport do not allow passengers to board with pets. As a result, when pet owners need to take their pets to veterinary clinics for medical consultation, or wish to take their pets for a walk in country parks or pet gardens, they can only use expensive modes of transport such as taxis or other vehicles for hire via telephone. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it knows the following details of those public light buses, ferries and non-franchised buses which currently allow passengers to board with pets: the names of the operators, the routes, and the relevant terms and conditions;
(2) of the number of members of the public who were prosecuted in the past three years for boarding public transport with pets;
(3) whether it will consider relaxing the relevant existing by-laws/ regulations of various modes of public transport so as to allow passengers to board with pets (e.g. allowing passengers to board with pets which are of certain sizes and put in pet carrier bags/ cases);
(4) given that currently some ferry routes allow passengers to board with pets, whether it will consider providing support to all ferry operators in the territory so as to enable more ferry routes to allow passengers to board with pets;
(5) whether it will consider launching a trial scheme under which various modes of public transport may introduce, during holidays, designated trips or compartments that allow boarding with pets; and
(6) whether it will consider exploring with the MTR Corporation Limited the launch of a trial scheme to designate the first/ last compartments of MTR trains as pet compartments, and allow passengers to board with pets equipped with proper gear (e.g. being kept on a leash, muzzled, or put in cases/ bags); if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
Having consulted the Transport Department (TD) and the MTR Corporation Limited (MTRCL), the reply to the question raised by Dr the Hon Priscilla Leung is as follows:
(1) and (4) At present, the legislation regulating different modes of public transport allows the visually impaired to board with guide dogs. The legislation also allows the operators of franchised/licensed ferry services, public light buses and non-franchised buses to decide themselves whether passengers are permitted to board with pets.
For ferries, it is up to individual operators to decide whether to allow passengers to board with pets, and set relevant terms and conditions. These terms and conditions are generally set in consideration of the actual operating conditions of the operators and to minimise disruption to other passengers, e.g. passengers must leash their pets or put them in a cage/ bag, passengers with pets must stay in designated cabin zone, etc. Details are at Annex. At present, there are 18 outlying island and in-harbour ferry routes that allow passengers to board with pets, accounting for over 80 per cent of all regular ferry routes. The TD will continue to encourage operators of the remaining ferry routes to provide appropriate assistance to passengers who need to travel with pets.
For public light buses and non-franchised buses, due to the limited space and carrying capacity of their compartments, the operators may decide whether to allow passengers to board with pets in accordance with the legislation, having regard to the actual situation in the compartment at the time and the views of passengers, etc. The TD does not have information on the operators of public light buses and non-franchised buses that allow pets aboard, the routes concerned, and the relevant conditions.
(2) According to the MTRCL, Hong Kong Tramways Limited and ferry service operators, no passengers were prosecuted in the past three years (i.e. from 2019 to 2021) for violating the relevant legislation and by-laws due to boarding with pets. For franchised buses, the TD and the operators do not have figures on relevant cases. There are no relevant prosecution provisions applicable to other modes of public transport.
(3), (5) and (6) Public transport is heavily used in Hong Kong with over 10 million passenger trips per day, of which over 70 per cent are made on rail and franchised buses. At present, passengers are prohibited from boarding MTR trains and franchised buses with pets, except for guide dogs accompanying the visually impaired. With high patronage and limited compartment spaces, MTR trains and franchised buses are rather crowded most of the time. When considering whether to relax the restriction on passengers travelling with pets for these public transport services, the Government has to balance the needs on various fronts, taking into account the reaction of pets travelling in a crowded and confined environment from the perspective of animal welfare protection as well as the potential impact on other passengers. The Government will continue to keep in view relevant suggestions for considering whether a change to the existing arrangement is necessary. The MTRCL will also continue to communicate with various stakeholders and listen to the views of different sectors on this issue.
Ends/Wednesday, November 2, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:27
Issued at HKT 16:27