KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Two studies, from the Animal Policy Group and the American Pet Products Association, produced the same figure: 70% of U.S. homes have pets.
Results are shifting how various sectors interact with animals.
“There's a lot of opportunity for us to go to Berkeley Riverfront," said Donna Mandelbaum with KC Streetcar.
Much like the Main Street extension to the University of Missouri-Kansas City from Union Station, the streetcar has its sights set on the river.
“The addition of the Kansas City Current soccer stadium is just going to grow that area so much more," Mandelbaum said.
Officials envision the streetcar as a transit spine for the city, with a targeted debut in 2025.
“Accessible, free, fair, sustainable electric travel for all of Kansas City," Mandelbaum said.
That's great for humans, but what about the overwhelming number of residents with dogs?
“We have a lot of pet-friendly residents on the line, that they do ask for dogs that are not service animals be allowed on," Mandelbaum said.
The current policy only allows for service animals onboard the streetcar.
While KC Streetcar isn’t looking at a universal pet-friendly policy right now, one company is starting that discussion.
“We've already shown people that we lead the forefront and sort of thinking about how we interact with our pets," said Bar K co-founder David Hensley.
For three years, Bar K has brought humans and dogs together on the river. Now the company’s founders see an opportunity.
“I think there's a way to do the streetcar in a way that would be safe and overcome all the obvious objections," said co-founder Leib Dodell.
One idea is to turn part of, not all of, the signature cars into pet-friendly spaces.
"One of the cars that would be specific for having dogs," Hensley explained.
“So those riders that are you know, not fans of dogs, they have allergies or they have a fear, they would know not to board," Mandelbaum added.
Other ideas include limited routes that are pet-friendly, certain pet-friendly hours and even staffing, similar to Bar K’s dog-tenders who monitor interactions in the park.
“Bar K would certainly be open to having conversations with streetcar authority on you know, training, those people even cross utilizing some of our existing people," Dodell said.
A lot of legislative changes have to happen first.
“The streetcar system is operated by the Streetcar Authority, but everything is owned by the city of Kansas City, Missouri. So they would have to be involved in changing any of the ordinances or rules that allow animals on board public transit vehicles," Mandelbaum explained.
Even so, Bar K has started that canine-on-car conversation.
“Kansas City can lead the way with this. Right now is the opportunity, right now is the perfect time especially as we have all this new construction going on down the road," Hensley said.
“We’re living through a revolution in the way companion animals are perceived. We can safely coexist with these other beings in ways that were never thought possible," Dodell added.
Another key piece of Bar K’s pitch for a pet-friendly streetcar is alleviating parking concerns along the river, which will also be a focus as more housing is built, followed by the Kansas City Current’s new stadium.
It was also announced this week that now officials are looking at expanding the streetcar beyond the riverfront and actually across the river into North Kansas City.