Mr Robin Swann, the North Antrim Ulster Unionist MLA and a UUP Chairman of the Stormont Public Accounts Committee, has urged the Stormont Executive “to make it compulsory that all staff employed on public transport receive training on dealing with passengers with animals”.
Assemblyman Swann, the UUP Chief Whip, is also a member of the present Stormont Agriculture Committee and a Past President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster.
Mr Swann issued his challenge to the Executive following a query from a concerned constituent which he has now raised with the Sinn Fein Minister for Infrastructure.
Mr Swann had asked him to outline what guidance and training is provided to members of staff to be able to deem a dog or animal as dangerous, as what the query has highlighted is that what one member of staff may have concerns about, another may not.
Responding to Assemblyman Swann, the Minister said: “The following guidance framework operates within Translink. Carriage of assistance dogs is non-discretionary, i.e. guide dogs, hearing dogs, dogs for the disabled, support dogs and canine partners for independence are permitted to travel at any time.
“Railway staff are given guidance and briefed on the Translink Dog/Animal Policy on a one to one basis by their Supervisor. Staff are encouraged to use their discretion in considering the size, breed and temperament of the animal intending to travel.
“Guidance in this area is periodically included for bus staff in the course of training in relation to the Certificate of Professional Competence. It is also contained in the bus driver’s manual,” the Minister told Mr Swann.
Assemblyman Swann added: “While such guidelines exist, I want to see a situation where all public transport employees receive compulsory training in dealing with passengers with animals.
“So often in society, there is a focus on animal owners controlling their pets, especially dog owners clearing up after their animals make a mess on the streets, or ensuring that their dogs do not attack farm animals in incidents such as sheep worrying.
“While these issues are important, it is of equal significance that the Executive focuses on people who need to use public transport either with essential animals, such as guide dogs, or accompanied by family pets.
“If the Executive is truly committed to a serious environmental strategy of encouraging more of us to use public transport, then it must be equally committed to ensuring that staff employed on public transport are fully confident in dealing with passengers who travel with their animals,” said Assemblyman Swann.