Advice on Pet Transportation New York City

Memorial Day has finally arrived! The unofficial start of summer means trips to Long Island, New Jersey, and points upstate for many New Yorkers with their dogs.

pet transportation nyc
Bodhi Trying to Hail a Cab

Figuring out pet transportation in New York City can be a lot simpler than you think. With just a little research (and sometimes a little more cash than you’d like to spend) you can get your pooch around the city, and in and out of town, pretty easily.

Getting Out of Town

Most New Yorkers don’t have cars, and renting autos can be costly. That means city folk are generally reliant on trains for getting in and out of New York City. The Long Island Railroad (LIRR) and Metro-North have different rules about dogs even though they are both part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA.)

Can I Bring My Dog on the LIRR?

On the LIRR you can travel with any animal that is properly confined for shipment. Working service dogs are exceptions and don’t need to be contained. (Scroll to the bottom of this post for more on service and working animals.) The LIRR website specifies:

“Small domestic pets are permitted provided they are carried in kennels or similar containers that can be accommodated by you on your lap without annoyance to other passengers. No part of the animal may protrude from the container and pets should not occupy seats. Service animals properly harnessed and accompanying people with disabilities are always welcome in MTA’s network.”

That said, I’ve seen people bring large dogs in carriers going out to Fire Island. Big dog owners, proceed at your own risk.

Can I Bring My Dog on Metro-North?

Metro-North is slightly different. Dogs can be leashed instead of crated, so long as they behave. Metro North says:

“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. Service animals properly harnessed and accompanying people with disabilities are always welcome in MTA’s network.”

Can I Bring My Dog on the PATH and New Jersey Transit?

If you’re heading west to New Jersey, New Jersey Transit trains allow dogs in crates or containers and PATH trains allow dogs in crates or containers.

Can I Bring My Dog in Rental Cars?

Another option is using short term car rental services like Zip Car. When Bodhi was in physical therapy at the Animal Specialty Center in Yonkers, we took him back and forth using a Zip Car. The company allows dogs, but they must be crated or put in containers. Other car rental companies, like Hertz, Alamo, Budget, and Avis, are pretty accommodating as well. Typically dogs are allowed, but very frequently the cars we’ve rented come with a warning that transporting pets can result in extra cleaning fees. Sometimes those charges can be pretty hefty. Transport a dog in a rental car at your own risk! Or just make sure the car is EXTRA clean when you return it. Usually we try to vacuum our rentals when we’re done. So far, we’ve never had to pay any cleaning fees and we rent cars a lot! We must doing something right. Of course, renting cars in New York City, especially Manhattan, can be very expensive. Give some thought to renting a car in New Jersey or at La Guardia.

Dog Taxis

There are also many “dog taxi” services in New York City. These are basically vans that can be hired to taxi you and your dog anywhere you want to go. We’ve used them a few times. They can vary widely in price. If you Google “pet transportation new york city” you’ll find plenty of options. They also leave their business cards in vets’ offices. I think if you need transportation for medical reasons, you should definitely consider one of the pet taxis. Some of them specialize in transporting animals to and from the vet’s office; at the very least, the pet taxis are going to be sensitive to the needs of a sick animal and its owner. They are also good for longer jaunts; we used one once to get to Sayville, out on Long Island.

Can I Bring My Dog on the Hampton Jitney?

And another option for out-of-town travel is the Hampton Jitney. They say pets are okay as long as your pet is in a D.O.T. approved carrier that you are able to carry onboard with you. Pets must remain in carriers at all times. There is a charge of $10 to travel with your pet. Keep in mind that your pet, in its carrier, will have to travel on your lap if the coach is full. I called Hampton Jitney’s North Folk office to see if there was a size restriction. The charming lady I spoke to said there’s no weight restriction, but “you can’t bring your Saint Bernard on!” She reiterated the policy that you need to be able to easily carry your dog on board in a carrier.

Traveling Around Town

Traveling in the city presents a completely different set of challenges. But, between private companies, like Uber, and public transportation, you should be able to come up with plenty of usable options.

Shared Car Services: Can I Bring My Dog on Uber?

Awhile back, our Weimaraner Bodhi had surgery on his foot. Like all owners of large dogs in New York City, we were suddenly confronted with the problem of how to get him back and forth easily from the vet’s office. We quickly learned that Uber was probably the best option for us at the time.

pet transportation new york city
Bodhi After Surgery, Waiting for his Uber

Uber’s policy on carrying dogs is left to the driver. Here’s the company’s official line: “In accordance with local and federal laws in your area, service animals are permitted to accompany riders at all times.”  If you’re planning to ride with a non-service pet, it’s good practice to contact the driver who accepts your ride request. Use your app to send a text message or call to let the driver know you’d like to bring a pet. Please help drivers keep vehicles clean for all riders by bringing a crate or blanket to reduce the risk of damage or mess. Some drivers may keep a blanket in the trunk. Basically you order an Uber, call the driver and ask if he or she will take dogs, if they say yes, you’re on your way. No Uber driver turned us down. The fares were reasonable. We brought towels with us. We tipped all our drivers handsomely!

pet transportation new york city
Uber

Lyft has a similar policy: “Unless the passenger has a service animal, it’s entirely up to the driver whether or not to allow the passenger’s pet in the vehicle. We advise passengers to call their drivers right after their requests are accepted to confirm that it’s okay to bring their pets.”

Other People’s Experiences with Car Services

We do want to stress that our experience with Uber was more than a year ago. Since then we have heard from readers who say that their experience wasn’t quite as easy as ours. One Urban Dog reader told us:

“I own a relatively small and easy-to-handle Basenji. I called Uber ahead of time to make sure my dog had the okay.’ Once I was turned down by three drivers, finally accepted by the fourth. A second time trying to use Uber, it took five drivers to find one who approved of her! More drivers are less willing, but don’t get discouraged. If it’s not business hours. Uber will eventually say yes. Just keep calling!!”

We also want to direct you to this recent article about how some dog owners are having trouble with Uber.

Can I Bring My Dog on NYC Taxis?

Taxis are allowed to pick up dogs, but it’s left to each driver’s discretion. Our advice: try to hail a cab with your dog visibly leashed and behaving by your side. We’ve had success that way, but it sometimes takes awhile for a taxi to stop. We also brought a towel with us to put on the seat for Bodhi to sit on. Again, we always tip generously. You can also try to use any of the old school car services like Carmel or Dial 7. They generally require that your dog be in some type of container.

Can I Bring My Dog on NYC Ferries and NYC Water Taxis?

New York Waterway, on the Hudson and the East rivers, says “Only service dogs or small dogs in pet carriers are allowed on board.”

The Staten Island Ferry says: “Pets, other than service animals as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act, are not allowed in the facilities and/or onboard the ferry boats, unless they are caged and/or muzzled.”

Can I Bring My Dog on NYC Busses and NYC Subways?

Public transportation is the cheapest option for traveling with pets, however, it’s not as easy using public transportation within in the city as it is on the private enterprises. Dogs are allowed on New York City busses and New York City subways, but they have to be in containers and can’t be a nuisance to other passengers. That’s relatively easy if you have a small dog, with large dogs it’s a bit more challenging!

Service Animals and Pet Ambulances

The restrictions on dogs on all MTA -governed transportation do not apply to service dogs. (The MTA pretty much governs all public transportation in NYC: subways, busses, trains etc.) Here is how the MTA defines “service dog”:

“‘Service animal’ means a guide dog, signal dog, or other animal individually trained to perform tasks for the benefit of a person with a disability that such person is unable to perform due to such disability, such as guiding persons with impaired vision, alerting persons with impaired hearing to sounds, pulling a wheelchair, retrieving dropped items or providing rescue assistance. The term service animal does not include a therapy animal or animal used for emotional support.

pet transportation new york city
Seeing Eye Service Dog on the L Train

We mentioned above that you should want to consider a dog taxi for medical issues. In the case of an emergency, you might want to go one step further and call a pet ambulance service like Ambuvet. For more, read their FAQ. If you’re reading this and need ambulance service immediately, here’s their number: 800-AMBUVET (800-262-8838.)

We here at Urban Dog hope you and your pooches have great adventures on the road!