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In cultural shift, Saudi Arabia allows pets on public transportation

Pet owners can now bring their pets onto buses, boats and trains in the kingdom, but only under certain conditions.
A woman sits with her German shepherd at the Barking Lot cafe in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi transportation authorities said on Sunday that people are now allowed to bring pets on public transportation in another sign that Saudi Arabia’s conservative cultural norms are changing.

Saudi Arabia’s Transport General Authority posted a lengthy document on X documenting the rights of bus, train and boat passengers in the kingdom. In the document, the authority said that “small” animals can be brought onto modes of transportation provided they are kept in a box or designated area and don't pose a danger or obstruct people’s movement.

The document includes numerous other rules and stipulations related to paying fares, luggage and more. The authority listed fine amounts ranging from 100 to 500 Saudi riyals ($27-$133) for violations. The designated penalty for improperly bringing a pet onto a mode of transportation is refusal of service, according to the document.

The Transport General Authority additionally specified the rights of visually impaired passengers to use service animals on modes of transportation provided they do not impede movement or pose a danger.

Why it matters: Having dogs as pets is relatively uncommon in the Muslim world, though cats are more frequent. Yet the situation has changed somewhat in recent years, including in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi news website Arab News reported in 2018 that some Saudis adopt animals such as cats and dogs from the streets and shelters.

Dogs as pets are particularly taboo in the region. Some Islamic scholars consider dogs to be unclean and prohibit their use as house pets. Owning a dog is legal in Saudi Arabia, however. Only certain dogs are banned in the country, such as pit bulls, according to the website of the Saudi Embassy in Washington.

The decision to allow pets on public transportation is the latest in a series of cultural and societal changes in Saudi Arabia. In May, Al-Monitor reported that Saudi Arabia’s official tourism website specified that LGBTQ tourists and unmarried couples can now visit the kingdom. In 2018, Saudi women finally earned the right to drive, though the treatment of women in the country is still criticized, including in regard to male guardianship laws.

Know more: Many Egyptians have abandoned their pets due to the rising cost of living, Ahmed Hidji reported for Al-Monitor in June.