Are Dogs Allowed On SEPTA?

I always see photos of dogs of all sizes riding on public transportation in cities like Boston and New York. The practice is particularly common in countries abroad, as big dogs lounge about the aisles of the London Underground. But what about Philly?

My relationship with SEPTA, Philadelphia’s own public transit, is less love/hate than it is deal-with/hate. I use the service frequently, but I loath to think of the inevitable day that I have to use SEPTA for my daily commute.

“I smell better than most of the people on this train.”

For now, I use the subway and SEPTA Regional Rail to get to my parents’ house in South Jersey. Mobility and transportation were huge issues when I began seriously considering bringing a dog into my life. I assured my parents that passengers could travel with their pets on SEPTA, but could I really?

Like any good millennial, I took to the internet for an answer. Unfortunately, no amount of Google searching revealed anything even remotely helpful. Nearly all of the results were, and still are, questions from as early as 2009 asking if pets are allowed to use SEPTA’s services. The transportation authority’s own site continues to leave out any language regarding non-service animals.

I decided to take my chances this past weekend when I traveled to my parents’ on SEPTA. Packed into his inconspicuous pet carrier—it looks just like a duffel bag—Dipper and I took the subway to 30th St. Station and from there, onto the Regional Rail Line.

Four SEPTA conductors on Regional Rail looked directly at Dipper while his head was out of his carrier. None of them said anything. Another SEPTA worker sat next to us on the platform and proceeded to fill out paperwork with Dipper in plain view.

Despite Dipper hating the subway (me too, buddy), we were able to make the trip—and back—without a hitch. Granted, a few laid-back conductors don’t make the rules, so I decided to get a real answer.

To ride on SEPTA, a dog must be in a bag or carrier. In short: Chihuahuas, yes; Great Danes, no

Essentially, if a pet can’t make it onto an airplane, then it probably can’t use SEPTA. But as Dave noted, the rules for service animals are different. Buses and regional rail probably stick pretty closely to the closed-container rule for non-service pets, as conductors and drivers are there when passengers board. I’m sure it would be easy to slip a dog onto the Market-Frankford or Broad Street lines, but as nervous as that made Dipper, I don’t think dogs and the subway mix very well.

Rules are there for a reason, and I’m not so sure Philly’s public transportation is ready to go to the dogs. Use discretion when bringing your dog on public transportation.

Do you ride SEPTA with your dog? Tell us about your travels in the comments below!

10 Comments on Are Dogs Allowed On SEPTA?

  1. It was very helpful! I want take my mini dachshund with me when i go to center city sometime and i was curious about Septa’s regulations.

    • Your dog will only be able to ride the bus if she is able to fit in a bag or dog carrier. But it will likely be a little hard to a comfortable dog carrier for a 30 lb. dog. You (very sadly) cannot walk your pet onto any public transportation anywhere in the United States.

      I have seen some people fashion dog carriers for their larger pets out of tote bags, but whether your dog can ride the bus will ultimately be entirely up to the discretion of the bus driver, so I can’t guarantee that an improvised carrier will always work.

      I hope this helps!

      • I agree about Philadelphia, but there are some transportation that allow dogs on leashes outside of rush hour. MBTA in Boston is an example.

  2. I was told today that only service dogs are allowed on septa. I believe that the septa employee did not like that I objected to moving from my seat in the area that has a sign “priority for seniors & those with disabilities” in order to make room for 2 bicycles.I am 72 and have rheumatoid arthritis and these seats are the most comfortable for me getting on & off the train.
    I was on a regional rail from trenton to philadelphia. I have taken my small yorkie in a bag on regional rail for 15 years & have been told by numerous septa train personnel that a small dog in an enclosed pet carrier on my lap is allowed.

    • Thanks for your comment! First, I’m sorry to hear about your experience on the train with those bicycles. 🙁 What you were told about service animals is representative of one thing (out of many) that frustrates me about SEPTA: a lack of knowledge among SEPTA personnel about SEPTA’s own policies. As far as I know, the carrier policy has not changed. In April, SEPTA even shared a photo of my own terrier in a carrier on a SEPTA train! But your conductor or bus driver may not even realize that policy exists. I wish I had a good solution. Without this information listed on SEPTA’s own website, it’s hard to argue our case.

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