B.C. Ferries has expanded a pilot project that allows four-legged friends onto the upper outside decks of ferries to more routes — including a major route between Vancouver and Nanaimo.
Dogs on leashes and cats in carriers travelling with their owners on the Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay, Comox-Powell River, and Earls Cove-Saltery Bay routes are now allowed on the upper outside decks on select vessels in designated pet areas, according to B.C. Ferries. There will be a limit of two dogs per owner.
"I hope other people get on board with this and we get more places for dogs to be on the ferry. That would be really great," said Meg Lainson, a Sidney, B.C., veterinarian who often takes the ferry with her two dogs to get to the mainland.
Last fall, B.C. Ferries had an outdoor pet area on the Malaspina Sky, which sails between Earls Cove and Saltery Bay. About 1,000 pets travelled with their owners over a 90-day period, according to B.C. Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall.
Ninety per cent of respondents to a survey were in favour of expanding the pet areas to the outer decks of other ferries, Marshall said.
"One customer said leaving the dog in the car causes considerable stress on the pet. Another dog owner said that their pet has separation anxiety, so that can be stressful. And other customers have said it's great to get the dog out of the car on a leash and just be able to walk around the outer decks," Marshall said.
Lainson also noted that passengers will no longer have to worry about getting their pets from their cars in case of an emergency on the ferry.
Marshall says B.C. Ferries will monitor how the project goes this summer, and then will assess whether to expand it to more routes.
She says the company wants to ensure that non-pet owners are also comfortable with having animals on decks.
"We appreciate that somebody might not enjoy dogs or whatnot. That's why it's important to have those dogs on a one-metre leash at all times," Marshall said.
Marshall encourages passengers to provide feedback through a B.C. Ferries online survey.