After the US Department of Justice issued new federal guidelines to the Americans With Disabilities Act narrowing the definition of what animals can be called “service animals,” many wondered how those changes might be reflected in animal-friendly San Francisco. One thing that won’t be changing, at least for now, however, are Muni’s rules and regulations regarding animals on their vehicles.

On March 15, the (DOJ) changed their ruling on what animals can be allowed where, specifying that “service animals,” which are traditionally allowed anywhere the human they’re serving is allowed, can only be dogs or housebroken miniature horses.

In addition, “service animals” are now defined as those that are “individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.” Animals that simply provide “emotional support, well-being, comfort, or companionship” are not considered service animals under the new regulations.

These new guidelines, which went into effect on April 1, aren’t binding to states, municipalities and other agencies, which are free to adopt the policy or to make their own, the AP reports.

That’s why it was especially surprising to see KRON4’s Stanley Roberts reporting (as seen in the video above) that “Muni tells me, effective immediately, they will follow the new federal ADA guidelines, and only certified service dogs will be allowed to ride Muni.”

What, no miniature horses? WTF MUNI FAIL. No, I’m kidding.

The real reason this gave me pause was that this is a significant change to Muni policy, which presently allows all sorts of non-service animals.

See for yourself: SFMTA policy presently says that non-service animals (we’ll call them “pets”) are allowed to ride Muni any time but weekdays 5-9 a.m. and 3-7 p.m.

There are some stipulations — pet dogs must be muzzled and leashed, and only one per vehicle’s allowed. Other pets and non-service animals must be carried in small closed containers, and for every pet, a fare equal to the owner’s must be paid. (Rules for service animals differ, here they are.)

Is Muni using this federal decision to ban all animals, unless they are service dogs, from their vehicles? According to SF MTA spokesperson Paul Rose, they thought they were going to, but now, we’ll “have to wait and see.”

At the time of Roberts’ report, Rose says, the SF MTA believed that they’d be making a policy change prohibiting animals on Muni.

However, the MTA has since discovered that since the Department of Transportation has yet to issue any changes as a result of the DOJ ruling, Muni won’t be changing any of its policies for now.

Does that mean Muni might initiate a ban on all animals but service dogs, if the DOT issues changes to the regulations involving service animals?

Rose couldn’t answer that question, just repeating that it’s all dependent on what the Department of Transportation says.

Are the MTA’s present rules on pets on Muni set by the DOT? I asked Rose. He didn’t know, and is checking into this (I’ll update when he lets me know).

Anyone who regularly rides Muni raised their eyes skeptically around the middle of this story, because, at least anecdotally, most rules on things like muzzling dogs or paying fares for them seem to be rarely followed (or enforced). Perhaps because of that, many feel that the bus is no place for a pet, and say that they’d applaud the change.

Jim Haselbeck, who was waiting for the N Judah at 47th and Judah this morning, is one such person. “I don’t get these people who have to take their dogs everywhere,” he said.

“I’ve seen dogs on the bus that look scared, not like they’re having a fun adventure. And scared dogs bite.”

However, for some, being able to take a pet on Muni is necessary — many pet owners have relied on Muni to get to vet appointments, for example. Will they need to resort to cabs or a car sharing service to get where they need to go?

That’s all still unclear, and Rose is unwilling to speculate. “At this point everything stays the same,” he told me again. “(Muni) won’t change a thing. We’ll see what happens with the Department of Transportation.”

Want more news, sent to your inbox every day? Then how about subscribing to our email newsletter? Here’s why we think you should. Come on, give it a try.

the author

Eve Batey is the editor and publisher of the San Francisco Appeal. She used to be the San Francisco Chronicle's Deputy Managing Editor for Online, and started at the Chronicle as their blogging and interactive editor. Before that, she was a co-founding writer and the lead editor of SFist. She's been in the city since 1997, presently living in the Outer Sunset with her husband, cat, and dog. You can reach Eve at eve@sfappeal.com.

Please make sure your comment adheres to our comment policy. If it doesn't, it may be deleted. Repeat violations may cause us to revoke your commenting privileges. No one wants that!
  • Aaron Sankin

    Miniature horses may be banned, but are ponies OK? Wait, are miniature horses the same thing as ponies? Maybe if they just called them ponies no one would have a problem with letting them on the bus. I’m just saying that if Applejack wanted to get on the bus you’d probably let on the bus. Ain’t no one says no to Applejack.

  • Matt Baume

    Are drivers allowed to bring service animals with them? I see this being a potential issue during the labor negotiations.

  • Fixer

    Muzzle laws have always been enforced whenever I bring my tiny dog aboard. And the last time I rode with my dog (I’m not one of those people who brings my dog everywhere, I don’t think a lot of these places are actually enjoyable for the dog), the MTA lady was about to stop me (and I assume make me pay the dog’s fare), when I whipped out his transfer.

    I’ve seen lots of dogs ride (and most are not muzzled, but do not appear to be service dogs), and I’ve never seen them cause trouble. But I’m sure someone will now comment about the dogs run amuck on MUNI, and will likely come up with some anecdote about being violently humped by a dog whilst holding onto the strap hanger, or some such nonsense.

  • Ben Metcalfe

    Miniature horsed are allowed on the Muni????!?! Picks or it didn’t happen!

  • Rain Jokinen

    What bugs me is when people with small dogs or cats in a carrier are made to pay an additional fare for the pet. We’re talking carriers that are about the same size as a backpack (and less intrusive than someone wearing a backpack, frankly). How about charging an extra fare for luggage? Or giant bags of recyclable cans?

  • tranimal00

    surprisingly, in the almost 15 years i’ve been riding muni, i’ve never witnessed a high-stress situation involving animals on board. however, i’ve got to agree with Rain, i feel like unless an animal takes up more room than a backpack (essentially, if it’s displacing human riders), only then should they really have to pay an extra fare.

    oh man, i really really really wish they charged riders extra with giant bags, strollers that don’t fold, overpacked push carts, furniture, etc. If i had a dollar for every time i was denied a seat because a bunch of someone else’s stuff is taking up multiple seats (or worse, blocking an entire portion of the bus).

  • Burgos

    Watch what happens when Target opens its stores and that 1000 roll of “economy” toilet paper takes up an entire seat. Foofy the Great Dane is going to look small by comparison.

    It’s not too bright to charge an additional fare when MUNI and BART are encouraging passengers to use public transportation to and from the airports; luggage is usually bulkier than a pet carrier: charge for luggage on MUNI?

  • Jimbo

    Jimbo the lizard??? WTF? 😉

  • tranimal00

    yeah, even though it’ll be nice to buy underwear in bulk within city limits, i’m definitely a little trepidacous about target moving in

    haha, i never said it was a realistic wish. also, people with luggage generally tend to be better about not blocking aisles… i mean people with REALLY big stuff that really should cause a person to rethink taking the bus in the first place (although, i totally understand that it isn’t always an option for folks).