Councillor critical of pet ban on Lichfield bus service

A ban on pets travelling on buses has been branded “heartless” by a county councillor in Lichfield.

Pets have been banned on the Heartlands Bus service, but Cllr Matthew Ellis claims the ban has left people living in villages around the city having to pay more than £20 for a taxi when their pets need to visit vets.

Cllr Ellis said:

“Many people, often elderly, rely on rural bus services as their only affordable means of getting about. And often those same people consider their pet to be a real companion and an integral part of their life.

“I’m aware of constituents in Harlaston , Edingale, Wigginton and Elford who are devastated by the ban and simply cannot afford the cost of taxis to take their pets for treatment let alone for some company on trips to the shops or days out.

“This is a serious issue because as people get older and may have lost their partner it is pets that help to stave off loneliness that can be so devastating to their health and wellbeing. It’s not only odd, it is heartless too.”

Peggy Needham with her dog Lucy and Cllr Matthew Ellis

Peggy Needham with her dog Lucy and Cllr Matthew Ellis

One person affected by the ban is Harlaston resident Peggy Needham who says she has no idea why the ban was introduced.

She added:

“I can’t understand it. Even the drivers don’t know why they are no longer allowed to carry people with their pets. The buses are rarely more than half full and in all the years before the ban I never heard or saw any problems at all.

“Even people without pets are annoyed and think it is unfair and it really penalises those who don’t have their own transport and can’t afford £20 it costs to hire a taxi”.

Heartlands are subsidised to provide the bus service by Staffordshire County Council but the contractual arrangements in place historically mean that the company are free to place any restrictions on travel they wish to.

Cllr Ellis referred the decision to the County Council’s Public Transport Unit but despite asking the company to reconsider the ban they refused.

He added:

“Having talked to transport officials at the County it’s clear they have tried hard to sort this out but the company have refused point blank to reconsider their stance. I’m also told this is a situation they have never heard of before and it is certainly not normal for public transport providers to take this approach.

“Public money is used to subsidise this service but there is a distinct lack of common sense, compassion or customer service. Having raising my concerns with the Public Transport Unit they will be looking to amend future contracts and I will be opposing this company having any further publicly subsidised contracts until they lift the current ban.”

Mike James, Transport Manager for Heartlands Bus, said the ban was not a new thing and that it had been in the company’s conditions of carriage for 14 years.

He added:

“We operate all of our local bus services on behalf of Staffordshire County Council, and they have been in contact with ourselves on this matter and are aware this is not an issue they can enforce upon us contractually. As a public transport provider we have a number of issues to assess when compiling our terms and conditions of carriage, and this includes carriage of animals.”

Mr James outlined issues which forced the company to ban all animals with the exception of guide dogs:

  • An animal may foul on the bus, which would then mean that the bus must be removed from service straight away, and would cause delays/inconvenience to other passengers waiting for the bus, as well as bringing into account a number of health and safety issues.
  • A longer haired animal may leave hair on the seats of the vehicle as it walks past. As vehicles carry business commuters, this could give the potential of a claim against the company from someone whose clothing was damaged.
  • A driver or other passenger may have an allergy.
  • An animal may bite or chew and cause damage to the vehicle.

Mr James continued:

“We recently replaced notices on all our vehicles and gave staff re-training on our conditions of carriage to ensure this was met.  We realise that our policy may inconvenience the occasional traveller, but for the majority of our regular passengers this is not an issue.

“I am only aware of three passengers of the many thousands per week we carry that have had to be declined on the basis of having animals.”

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5 Comments

  1. johnthemon

    10th June, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Dirty wet dogs around your legs and feet fluctuating at leisure, some people don’t want it. And I am one of those people.

  2. Dog Lover

    10th June, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    The last time I used a bus was in the war so not really an expert on the subject but – when I am in the city I see lots of well behaved dogs never a badly behaved one and MANY MANY children misbehaving with their could not care less parent.
    Could you not stop the kids getting on the bus.
    It would help with the obesity problem and make for a nicer environment.

  3. johnthemon

    10th June, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    Dog lover you have not been on a bus since the war, and you feel the need to come on here and defend other dog lovers, good on you.

    And regarding your comments regarding children, I would like to include pushchairs, they are a bleeding pest.

  4. Dog Lover

    11th June, 2010 at 11:30 am

    I hope you did not damage those tax payer funded chairs ,some nearly as big as a small car,when they push them into your knee/shin!

  5. Dave C

    14th June, 2010 at 10:09 am

    I would assume that Guide Dogs will be allowed on these buses otherwise I suspect there would be problems with the disability discrimination act.