Goats, Geese and Dogs: Here’s how many animals caused subway delays in 2018

Brooklyn's outdoor tracks lure creatures of all sizes

February 27, 2019 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
There were 29 animal-related incidents in the subway system in 2018, including these two “baaaaad boys” that wandered onto the N line tracks. Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

Cats and dogs and goats, oh my.

Those were some of the furry creatures that snarled subway traffic last year by drifting onto the train tracks.

While New Yorkers are used to delays, those caused by animals are still enough of a novelty that they provoke a frenzy on Twitter.

In 2018, there were 29 animal-related incidents in the subway system, according to the MTA. Many of them occurred in Brooklyn, where long stretches of tracks run outside or near parks and other wildlife areas.

“Many of our trains operate in exterior environments where they’re more likely to encounter wildlife, but these incidents are extremely rare in light of the thousands of trips we run in a single day or the millions of trips we run in a year,” MTA spokesperson Amanda Kwan told the Brooklyn Eagle.

Although there was an average of more than two incidents a month last year, January 2019 has already seen an uptick in that number. Last month alone saw seven animal-related events.

“Pets and wild animals often times enter the subway system to escape extreme weather conditions like the cold, rain and snow,” said Dr. Brett Levitzke, chief medical officer and president of Veterinary Emergency & Referral Group.

“They also may find sources of food left behind by subway passengers. Once in the tunnels, it is easy to see how they could become lost or unable to find a viable exit.”

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Depending on the case, MTA officials often have to turn off electricity on the tracks so that police officers and first responders can remove the animals safely.

“Due to numerous ongoing efforts to improve service, including working with police to respond to and recover from incidents faster, the number of subway delays has decreased to four-year lows in recent months,” Kwan said.

Last year’s 29 incidents caused 268 trains to be delayed. To put that into perspective, there are roughly 3 million trips per year and about 8,400 a day. (One trip constitutes a train going from one terminal to the other, or a one-way trip.)

In April 2014, MTA Police and Metro-North employees rescued a dog from the tracks at Harlem-125th Street. Photo by Joseph P. Chan / Metropolitan Transportation Authority
In April 2014, MTA Police and Metro-North employees rescued a dog from the tracks at Harlem-125th Street. Photo by Joseph P. Chan / Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Notable delays

While the MTA does not categorize incidents by the type of animal causing the delay, some of the wilder cases have made headlines in the media — from a pair of goats that went for a stroll in August, to a dog named Jake that shut down the Williamsburg Bridge last month, shedding his leash and running onto the tracks.

The J, M and Z lines were delayed for almost two hours after Jake was seen running onto the bridge. The dog was saved, but the MTA had to turn off power so the NYPD could rescue him. The NYCT Subway Twitter account said it was the third report of a dog along the J line that week.

“A cop just walked through with a bowl of dog food,” John R Smith III wrote on Twitter, referring to the stalled train. “People are now trying to pay each other for cigarettes. It takes [an] hour and a half and one dog for a New York subway to convert to prison rules.”

According to the MTA’s rules of conduct, “no person may bring any animal on or into any conveyance or facility unless enclosed in a container and carried in a manner which would not annoy other passengers.”

Earlier this month, a goose made itself at home on the tracks of the B and Q line at the Parkside Avenue station. Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
Earlier this month, a goose made itself at home on the tracks of the B and Q line at the Parkside Avenue station. Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

On Feb. 4, a goose was rescued from the subway tracks at the Parkside Avenue station on the B and Q line in Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. The bird made its way to the Church Avenue Station where police officers were able to cage the animal after MTA officials shut off electricity on the tracks.

In August, the two goats that wandered onto the subway tracks of the N line near Eighth Avenue in Sunset Park headed south until police finally herded them to safety.

“A new one for us (we think): Two goats are roaming along the N line tracks in Brooklyn,” the NYCT Subway Twitter account wrote. “They’re safe and not currently affecting service, but they are on the run.” A second tweet read, “Two very baaaaad boys.”

In October, a kitten briefly disrupted service on the Q line after it was seen on the tracks at Brooklyn’s Cortelyou Road station. “Q train service has resumed after NYPD safely removed a very frightened but otherwise unharmed kitten from the tracks at Cortelyou Rd,” the NYCT Subway account wrote.

In August, two goats wandered onto the subway tracks in Brooklyn. Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit
In August, two goats wandered onto the subway tracks in Brooklyn. Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit

In April, a pit bull puppy named Lucky ran for several miles along the tracks in North Brooklyn. The animal was first seen at Wilson Avenue in Bushwick and was finally captured on the L-train tracks in Williamsburg.

In February 2018, a runaway dog named Dakota shut down F train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for more than an hour. The poodle was at a dog park near the Manhattan Bridge, according to The New York Times, when it got scared and ran into the York Street station in DUMBO. MTA officials shut off power on the line, and the pooch was eventually corralled two stops away at the Bergen Street station in Cobble Hill.

Canines causing delays on the subway is nothing new. As far back as 1937, an Eagle front-page article titled “Dog in 3-Mile Chase Tangles Up Subway” told the story of a pup that led search parties on a 25-minute pursuit through the metro.

“A small, white wire-haired terrier braved the terrifying perils of a man-made nether region — that is, subways — today and managed to survive. But not without causing a lot of hubbub,” the piece read.

“The canine wanderer repeatedly escaped death under the wheels of onrushing subway trains and, at length, fled, yelping and badly scared, to the street.”

Follow reporter Scott Enman on Twitter.

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