The world is a terrible place right now, and sharing videos of urban wildlife — whether it’s an avocado squirrel, a pizza rat or just a dog trying to get a break from the heat on an air-conditioned subway car — is one of the few joys we have left. But the MTA, the transit agency in charge of the rarely reliable NYC subway system, briefly encouraged commuters to instead call 911 when they see a dog on the train.
It all happened shortly after midnight on Wednesday when the MTA’s Twitter account @NYCTSubway butted into a post it wasn’t tagged in by Gothamist editor Jen Chung, who was just sharing a video of a happy dog on the train (like you do).
FYI very large, fuzzy commuter on uptown 1 train #WeTheCommuters pic.twitter.com/joH8XPyIj4
— Jen Chung (@jenchung) July 18, 2018
Hi, Jen. Sorry for the late response. If you do see a dog on board, please alert 911 or the nearest train crew member. Thanks again for the report.
— NYCT Subway (@NYCTSubway) July 18, 2018
The comments are full of incredulous New Yorkers asking a lot of very good questions and pointing out other problems that should occupy the MTA’s attention:
don’t subway employees have anything better to do? aren’t their jobs hard enough? do your colleagues appreciate you wasting their time and everyone else’s?
— Cam Fantastic (@CamFantastic1) July 18, 2018
Good grief @NYCTSubway there are some cities where stray dogs have learned to commute on the subway on their own. No one ever charges them a fare. Surely it’s not 911 territory.
— No Drones Canada (@NoDronesCanada) July 18, 2018
Dialing 911 bc of a DOG?!? Are you guys out of your freaking minds? Do the police have absolutely nothing to do? And can’t you work on improving service?
— Alex #BoycottNRA (@JockJockGoose) July 18, 2018
you know what’s illegal is having a fuckin waterfall in a subway station
— bad tweets 96 (@k_tron37) July 18, 2018
Yes, it is illegal to have a dog outside of a carrier on the train, with an exception for service animals that must either be in a harness or on a leash.
There is precedent for a dog on the NYC subway being dangerous: In April, 53-year-old Ruben Roncallo allowed his pit bull to sit on the subway bench next to a woman, CBS News first reported. She confronted him about having the dog on the seat, and the two began arguing. The woman shoved the dog, which then grabbed hold of her foot and an intense tug-of-war ensued. The owner now faces reckless endangerment charges.
Dogs are free(ish) to ride the NYC subway again
The MTA quickly walked back its initial “call 911!” response to say that if the dog is not behaving dangerously, riders can notify an employee or use the Help phones on the platform. Then in another comment posted almost exactly 12 hours later on Wednesday afternoon, after New Yorkers let them have it for trying to turn them into the next Permit Patty or Sidewalk Susie, @NYCTSubway backed off entirely from calling 911:
Apologies, one of our colleagues was mistaken in his response. Please do not call 911 unless there is an emergency. We love cute doggos as much as you – but they need to be in carriers while riding on a train. ^MW
— NYCT Subway (@NYCTSubway) July 18, 2018
Justice for good dogs! But the carrier only rule — widely and sometimes hilariously stretched to its limit as New Yorkers simply carry their yellow labs in Ikea bags and pugs in purses — is already having a chilling effect on dog content just as we need it most.
“Yesterday, I was on the C train and noticed a dog just on a leash, which was being held by its owner, a guy who was sitting down right by the door,” Metro reporter Kristin Toussaint recalls. “I wanted to take a picture and tweet it (because I love dogs) but I was actually worried someone would call him out for not having his dog in a bag. No one said anything on the train, and the dog wasn’t disturbing anyone by being on the ground on a leash, but I don’t know how intensely the MTA looks out for stuff like that on Twitter.”
Apparently, fairly intensely. Look, “If you see something, say something” is a good policy, and you should report problem dogs, not to mention passengers, packages and anything else that’s out of the usual scope of New York City weirdness, to 911. But if you’re fortunate enough to share your ride with a commuter as majestic as this, maybe just call it out on social media instead.