Just a few miles north of the Gulf of Mexico sits Houston, Texas, the fourth most populated city in the United States. The 2.5 million residents enjoy the benefits of living in such a massive city—well-developed neighborhoods, a diverse arts and culture scene, and, most importantly, accessible public transportation. Close to 50% of Houston residents own a pet, and the transportation infrastructure reflects this additional need. Though Houston’s city sprawl limits public transit to an extent, there are dozens of pet-friendly transportation options perfect for tourists and residents alike.
Houston has a wealth of transportation options—from METRO, which provides buses, trolleys, and a light rail service, to George Bush Intercontinental Airport, the 11th busiest worldwide, you won’t have much trouble getting Fido or Fluffy from Point A to Point B. This Houston pet travel guide offers information and resources about the city’s most popular transit options to help determine which works best for you and your pet.
Houston Pet Travel Options
Traveling with Pets on Trains and Subways
Unlike most large cities, Houston does not have a commuter rail service. Urban sprawl necessitates car ownership, and most residents commuting from the suburbs prefer to utilize the 576 miles of freeway and expressway. However, the Houston METRO provides inner-city transportation in the form of buses, a light rail, high-occupancy vehicle lanes, and paratransit. METRO’s service area covers some 1,300 square miles containing a population of 3.6 million.
In 2004, METRO began its light rail service with the opening of an 8-mile, north-south Red Line connecting Downtown, Midtown, the Museum District, the Texas Medical Center, and NRG Park. In the early 2010s, the Authority added two additional lines—the Green Line and the Purple Line—and extended the Red Line. Another route—the Uptown Line—is currently under construction, while the University Line has been postponed.
Per the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County’s website, all METRO trails allow customers to carry a pet. However, the animal must be properly contained in a carrier or a cage. Service animals can accompany riders with disabilities.
Traveling with Pets on Buses
In addition to providing a light rail service, METRO also provides Houston residents with a comprehensive bus system. The city’s fleet of over 1,200 buses see over 275,000 riders daily. Because these buses are regulated by the same governing body, the same pet policy applies: customers may carry a pet provided it is properly contained in a carrier or a cage. Service animals are always allowed to accompany riders with disabilities.
Houston is also home to Greenlink buses, a small fleet of buses that run on Compressed Natural Gas. This provides residents with a cleaner transportation alternative. Routes are restricted to Downtown Houston, and service is provided on weekdays from 6:30AM to 6:30PM. These buses are a part of METRO and therefore have the same pet policy.
Taxicabs, Uber, Lyft, and Ride-Sharing Pet Travel
Houston has more than 2,400 taxis in its fleet. Depending on the company, visitors can utilize a $6 flat taxi fare for all trips in the downtown area. The fare will apply anywhere within the Central Business District, which is bounded by Interstate 45, Interstate 10, and U.S. 59. There are at least 30 “hailing cab” icons on various downtown streets, which mark particular sites as “stands” throughout the metro area. Some companies adopt a strict no-pets rule, while others leave the decision to the individual cab operator. If you plan to hail a cab, ensure that your pet is visibly leashed or in a container at your side. This visibility allows cab drivers to decide if they want to pick up you and your animal before stopping.
If you need more security and added flexibility, you may opt to transport your furry friend via a rideshare service. Houston was the first city in Texas to approve ride-sharing services, which includes Uber and Lyft. These companies offer great alternatives to standard taxis. Both Uber and Lyft have the similar pet policies; the rider is encouraged to contact the driver immediately after confirming a ride request. In doing this, the rider allows the driver to decide in advance if they would like to accept the passenger. When a driver is uncomfortable with an animal, they will simply cancel the request, and the rider can search for another nearby car. When contacting the driver, we recommend including information relating to breed, temperament, and the animal’s current condition (i.e. leashed, in a container, &c).
Pet Taxi Services
Pet taxi services are a relatively new addition to the Houston pet-friendly transit scene. This option guarantees pet parents an animal-friendly ride. Customers can contact one of the city’s several pet taxi companies to request a ride via telephone or website. This is an excellent option for residents and visitors with animals too large to ride on public transit.
Pet taxi services are often slightly more expensive than a standard taxi. For example, The Dog Walker offers $30 per trip, but additional costs are incurred if the distance is greater than five miles. Kiki & Fetch offers one-way trips (within Beltway 8) for $35, and Angel Pets of Houston charges $50/hour (with a one-hour minimum). For some pet owners, this added cost is worth it; a guaranteed ride is better than waiting for a lenient or understanding driver to pull up at a taxi stand.
Pet-Friendly Rental Car Companies
If you need extended or hyper-flexible pet transportation, Zipcar is an excellent option. Over 25 Zipcars are available for rent at 10 locations throughout Houston. Though concentrated in the downtown, midtown, and Greenway Plaza areas, this amenity provides an excellent resource for pet parents who need flexible or long-term private transportation. Riders can rent a car for anywhere between one hour and seven days, and rentals typically start from $9/hour and $73/day. Pets are allowed in Zipcars provided they are contained in kennels or carriers. Additionally, the company encourages drivers to clean up after their animals—wipe away dirt and remove as much pet hair as possible.
If you have longer, more comprehensive transit needs, consider renting a car from a standard rental service. As with most major U.S. cities, Houston is serviced by Herz, Alamo, Budget, and Avis. Herz is the most pet-friendly of the four; the company recently introduced a pet-friendly initiative. If you make your reservation at least 24 hours prior to pick-up, a staff member will install protective grills and dirt protection. The former will protect your pet from sliding luggage, while the latter ensures you won’t have to pay additional cleaning fees. Budget and Avis come in second-place for pet-friendliness; both allow animals in their cars to ride outside of carriers. Alamo, the least forgiving of rental car options, allows animals in their cars, but all pets must be kept within containers.
Houston Airport and Airline Pet Travel Guide
Long-distance visitors entering or exiting Houston will likely travel through one of the city’s airports. The city is served by two commercial airports—George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. Each has its own pet policy and animal-related rules, so we recommend reviewing our airport guides before booking a flight through one of these transit centers.
- Bush Intercontinental currently ranks second in the United States for non-stop domestic and international service. As one of the country’s top ten fastest-growing airports, this transit center is nearly always busy. However, the added traffic has led to new and improved pet initiatives. There are six animal relief areas in the airport—four are outside and before security, while two are inside and in secured areas. Per the airport’s pet policy, all non-service animals must be kept in containers unless they are going through security or utilizing a designated relief area.
- Houston’s second airport, William P. Hobby Airport, operates primarily small- to medium-haul flights. There are just two animal relief areas—one outside Level 1 and near Ground Transportation Zone 4, one inside on Level 2 and near Gate 20. As with Bush Intercontinental, all non-service animals must remain in their carriers unless traveling through security or utilizing one of the airport’s designated relief stations.
Though Houston’s airports have similar pet policies, rules and regulations vary widely between airlines. In addition to scoping out the nearest animal relief area, we encourage travelers to browse our airline pet policy guides to make the most appropriate decision for you and your pet.
Final Thoughts and Tips
When thinking of pet-friendly destinations, Houston may not be the first city that come to mind. However, Texas’s largest city is home to dozens of transportation options, many of which have pet-friendly alternative or options. Houston residents and visitors have more pet-friendly transportation resources than most. Your journey may require some patience and a few extra dollars, but you can always find dog-friendly transportation in this huge, lively city.