(MCT) — Rena Church isn't asking to take a slobbering Saint Bernard on a Metra train to Chicago. She simply wants to bring Rula, a 12-pound Chihuahua mix that fits inside a backpack, along for the ride from Aurora to Union Station.
"She's so portable," said Church, whose online petition asking the commuter railroad to relax its pet prohibition had more than 3,000 signatures Tuesday afternoon. "You can take them on the 'L,' you can take them on planes, but you can't take them on Metra."
Church has a point. The CTA allows service animals and small pets in carriers, as do many airlines. But Metra is more restrictive, making its only exception for service animals.
"We try to make commuter rail for all passengers safe and comfortable," said Metra spokesman Michael Gillis, who cited pet allergies and other safety considerations as reasons for the policy.
Gillis didn't know when Metra's animal policy started but said the agency probably would revisit its policy if approached by the petitioners.
Emily Nuncio Schick and her cat, Sofi, learned about the rule the hard way this past September when the pair were stranded at the Chicago Ridge station. Sofi had just had surgery for bladder stones at a clinic in the southwest suburb, and Nuncio Schick didn't realize until the conductor shut the door in front of her that animals weren't allowed on the railroad.
"One of the conductors was really rude to me," the college student said. "He was like, 'You should have read the sign, you should have known the rules.' I was very drained emotionally and started crying."
When Nuncio Schick finally got home, doubtful that the policy the conductor had cited actually existed, she discovered he was telling the truth. She also found Church's petition on Change.org and added her name. The petition, first reported on by DNAinfo Chicago, asks Metra to allow small pets in carriers aboard its trains.
It's a more passive protest than one in 2010, in which a woman in Highland Park caused a delay when she refused to get off a train with her small dog.
If the petition succeeds, Church said she'll likely ride the train into Chicago for her frequent trips to visit friends and attend street festivals. She hates to leave Rula behind for those outings, so for now she usually drives into the city.
"It's better for the environment to take the train, and I'm totally ready to do it, and they don't allow that," Church said. "If they maybe realize the business they're losing, it might help."
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