Dogs on trains: Spaniard's demand end to ban on large pets on rail network during August holiday period

Petition aims to force operator to change policy and has so far attracted more than 17,000 signatures

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The Independent Online

Suntan lotion, check. Beach towel, check. Sombrero, check. Dog booked in at the kennels. Yes, sadly, check.

As Spaniards embark on their traditional month-long holiday in August, many are forced to leave their pet pooches at home because of a ban on large dogs on the country’s national rail network. But all that could be about to change if a petition to force the state-owned railways operator, Renfe, to accept large dogs is successful.

“This summer, many families in Spain may not enjoy a holiday with their best friends: their dogs,” the petition says. “We, as lovers and friends of the dogs, are obliged to... give them a voice. ”

Spain is a nation of dog lovers and, so far, the petition, organised through the website, has attracted more than 17,000 of its 25,000 target signatures. Some small dogs are allowed on Renfe trains, but only those that weigh less than 10kg, or 22lbs – not much more than a Chihuahua.

A dog is pictured on a warm day on the beach in Puerto Banus, near Marbella, southern Spain (AFP)

Owners of anything larger are made to pack the family, and the dog, into a car for a long, hot journey to the coast, or take Rover to the kennels and forget about him for a month, though exceptions are made for guide dogs.

The campaign has attracted celebrity support. Not long after its launch, television presenter Sandra Barneda, posing with a picture of her dog, tweeted: “We now have over 7,000 signatures in 24h!! Thank you! Let’s... make it happen!”. Comedian Angel Garo also tweeted support.

Renfe trains, while not the most profitable, are among the most comfortable in Europe, with much more leg room for passengers than on, say, the West Coast Main Line in the UK. The petition organisers have been careful not to alienate passengers that would put creature comforts behind their own. Dogs would be assigned to special parts of carriages, they say, or there could be allocated carriages to people travelling with their pets.

According to The Local, which first reported the story, even the UK’s Network Rail has a more progressive policy towards dogs on trains, with passengers entitled to take two pets, of any size, on board.

Of course, for a nation of animal lovers, there are some who might ask how Spain’s love of dogs squares with its tradition of bullfighting, even if nobody is proposing taking a bull aboard a Renfe train.

On Thursday a bull named Guapeton, or Handsome, was shot dead in the street in Coria, Extremadura, after a goring a 43-year-old man to death during a traditional bull-running festival. The Civil Guard is investigating the incident.