Are there more dogs on NYC subways (or is it just us)?

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NYC subways have gone to the dogs

More and more big dogs are illegally riding the trains amid dwindling enforcement of the MTA’s rules for canine commuters.

While subway ridership remains stubbornly below pre-pandemic levels, the authors of this newsletter – and numerous commuters we spoke to – have noticed a recent uptick in New Yorkers bringing their furry friends on trains.

The MTA says it’s impossible to know how exactly many dogs ride the rails — but it’s been hard to miss the increase in large pooches flouting the agency’s rule that any animal on the subway must be “enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.”

“I agree with your anecdotal observation, particularly the part about noticing more dogs and fewer in bags,” MTA board member Norman Brown wrote to Gothamist.

The MTA does track the number of complaints it receives about dogs on subway trains. The agency received 31 of them during the first two months of 2019 — compared to 38 during the same period of 2023. There were 23 complaints in the first two months of this year.

The “bag rule,” which had been the work-around for people who wanted to bring pets onto the subway, dates back to 2004. That’s when the MTA first officially banned free roaming dogs on trains.

But the dog decree has been openly mocked by many riders who pushed the bag rule beyond its logical limits.

Levis, a poodle mix, strikes a pose on the F train en route to the Lower East Side to run errands.

Stephen Nessen

The MTA press office had no comment on the perceived increase in dogs, or whether the agency has changed its pet policy.

“No one will want to comment out of fear of being labeled an anti-dogite. Political poison,” Brown said.

But NYPD data indicates enforcement of the dog rules has largely been put on paws.

The NYPD issued 55 violations for unauthorized animals on the subway during the first half of 2019, City and State reported. Police said they issued 10 tickets for the infraction in all of 2023.

An informal survey by Gothamist at a dog park in the West Village found most dog owners regularly take their animals on the train without any problems.

“I think there should not be any limitations as to bringing a large dog onto the subway because I think that’s the primary mode of transportation for New Yorkers,” dog owner Izzy Martinez, 19, said.

She brings her white, shaggy poodle named Blue everywhere, unbagged — and said she’s “never had an issue.”

On an uptown Q train this week, a pair of large dogs lied peacefully on the car floor next to their owner, leaving a pool of drool on the floor. Baby, a chocolate Lab, and JoJo, a Siberian husky, are owned by Derek Newman, who didn’t agree with the MTA’s bag rule.

“They’re well behaved, people love them and there’s just no reason not to have them here,” said Newman. “They need transportation, too. They are New Yorkers, right?”

This dog, Monty, is a regular R train rider.

Stephen Nessen

But not everyone is a fan of the dogs on trains trend.

Sharon Jordan, 54, from Gramercy Park, said she won’t bring her small lap dog on the trains.

“If there’s a crazy person or something, I would feel bad if he [the dog] got upset and then like he could get stepped on, he could get trampled,” she said.

Jordan agreed she sees more dogs on trains — as well as more large e-bikes and chaos in general.

“It’s kind of a free for all nowadays,” she said.

Another MTA board member, Andrew Albert, saw an upside to the dog boom.

“If it means more riders are using the trains … I think that’s great,” he said.

This week in New York City transit news

Listen here:

  • Hochul deploys National Guard, state police to do mandatory bag checks in NYC subway
  • As part of her attempt to crack down on subway crime, Gov. Kathy Hochul is also calling for the passage of a new bill that would ban someone from riding public transit for three years if they’ve been convicted of assaulting a passenger. Read more.
  • A nearly three-mile stretch of Second Avenue in Manhattan would get a 24/7 bus lane, a wider bike lane and other safety-oriented changes under a redesign proposed by the city Department of Transportation this week. Read more.
  • Mayor Eric Adams is asking Albany lawmakers to extend New York City’s existing red-light camera program and expand it to cover 10% of the city’s intersections. Read more.
  • The NYPD says it’s investigating a possible hate crime in which a man on the subway was slashed by another commuter making “anti-gay statements.” Read more.
  • NJ Transit is holding public feedback sessions today and tomorrow regarding its proposal to hike bus and train fares by 15% — but there’s no option to attend remotely, which has some commuters annoyed. Read more.
  • You want to get people on your block to stop honking because they’re stuck behind a double-parked truck? Good luck! (Curbed)
  • Here’s an impressive collection of photos of the subway car repair shop in Coney Island. (The New York Times)

Curious Commuter


What good is having two police officers standing in a subway station together next to the booth, either chatting or on their phones. Commuters go at it alone — why can’t cops?

–Ann Martinez, Brooklyn

Police officers used to patrol the subways without a partner by their side, including Mayor Eric Adams when he was a transit cop. But the NYPD changed that policy in 2014 after officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos were shot and killed while sitting in a police car in Brooklyn. Their murders weren’t in the subways — but the department that year ordered all its officers to patrol in pairs as a safety precaution. Adams in 2022 briefly ordered the NYPD to do solo patrols in the subways as a way to cover more of the system, but that directive was quickly reversed after an officer working alone was allegedly assaulted by a man in Brooklyn.

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