Puppy plight prompts student lawsuit

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By Amy Brown-Bowers

A Ryerson student is suing Via Rail over an ordeal she said caused great stress and anxiety to her and her dog during a trip home to Montreal in early January.

Maya Saibil said the company misrepresented itself on its Web site and also through a ticket agent who assured her that she would be able to feed and visit her 10-week-old puppy Argus throughout the six-hour journey.

Instead Saibil said she repeatedly asked one of the train attendants to take her to see the dog and he told her he was too busy to accompany her to the baggage area where Argus was being held.

According to Saibil, she was eventually taken to see her dog but wasn’t allowed to give him food or water or take him out of his cage. She said she had less than a minute with her dog before she was escorted back to her seat.

Via Rail’s Web site states: “During the journey it is your responsibility to feed and exercise your animal.”

After sending Via a letter and receiving no response, Saibil is taking the matter to small claims court and suing the company for $2,000 for “misrepresentation and breach of contract.”

“There is no exact way to calculate pain and suffering,” she said, adding her father is a lawyer and suggested that was a feasible amount to sue for.

The Toronto train to Montreal does not stop for an extended period of time and it’s impossible to allow people to visit their pets in the baggage compartment, said Catherine Kaloutsky, a Via Rail spokesperson.

“You load your animal on the baggage car, and you pick it up at time of arrival,” she said.

Saibil said she spent the journey worrying whether Argus, a mix breed of Golden Retriever and Chesapeake Bay Retriever, was safe in the baggage department.

“If I had known I wouldn’t be able to see him or feed him or take him out of his cage, I wouldn’t have taken him on the train,” she said.

Saibil said she did not use the second half of her round trip ticket, opting instead to take a lift back to Toronto.

Via Rail would not comment on the specifics of the case.

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