I use ridesharing all the time (Lyft or Uber), and just recently heard I could use this service to take my pet to the vet. But what if the driver pulls away when they spot an iguana at the end of a studded purple leash? Iggy and I don’t want to be left stranded. Are there rules or a policy I should know about?
— Sarah in Scranton
Dr. Sip: Let’s start with the up-Lyfting Uber-facts. Uber and Lyft do, indeed, have their own pet policies. And it comes down to: who does the actual driver feel comfortable chauffeuring?
Melissa: That’s right, you’ve heard that the drivers are essentially independent contractors, which means two things: They get to decide whether they are going to offer you additional services like water or a mint, and their taxes are really complicated.
Dr. Sip: It’s ultimately up to the driver to make the decision about Iggy. But it’s a reasonable expectation to want to avoid waiting on the curb only to be turned away at the last minute.
Melissa: So this is what Lyft and Uber recommend: As soon as you request the ride on your app and the driver is assigned to you, call or text the driver PRONTO. Tell her or him who your riding companion is, how large and fuzzy she is, and how you intend to bring your pet in their car.
Dr. Sip: Which brings us to the “good citizen” part of this equation. If you’re bringing Chairman Meow, he should not be loose in the car (e.g., anyone who can fit in a carrier should be in a carrier, for the pet’s safety too). This will reassure the driver as well that no one will be pooping or peeing on the back seat of their car.
Melissa: If you have a pet who can’t be kenneled, like a pony-sized dog, tell the driver you are bringing a blanket to cover the back seat. (Then, don't forget to bring the blanket!)
Dr. Sip: This all presumes that your pet is well behaved, is not going to scare the driver (some might think Fuzzy the 16-foot Rock Python is adorable, but my husband would say she absolutely the FRICK is NOT), and will not be a hazard to everyone in the car by getting under the brake pedal.
Melissa: It’s super important to be honest up front—but also considerate and understanding if the driver says no. It’s their car. They might have allergies, they might have a fear of pets, they might not love animals the same way you do, and all of this is absolutely acceptable. Don’t be that guy who gives out a 1-star review because the driver wouldn’t take your pet. If you are honest with them and they with you, you've both done your part.
Dr. Sip: Of course, this means you’ll want to allow extra time should the first driver not be be up for including Rabbit Redford, however dashing he may be. And it would probably help the next person with a beloved non-human companion if you tip really well.
Melissa: Finally, all service dogs/pets must be accepted by drivers. If you have an actual, real-life, genuine service animal (a dog or miniature horse who can perform an actionable task for a person who requires assistance) and you are turned away, contact the rideshare service immediately to report the driver. It’s the LAW.
Dr. Sip: You are itching to say more. I can tell by your tightly pursed mouth…
Melissa: Here we go: Please, and this is the most important thing I’ve ever said on this blog: do not pretend your pet is an emotional support pet or a service animal if they are not. This can cause significant issues for those people who truly need these animals to get along in the world. Buying a vest does not a service dog make. The training for the jobs they are trained to do—like detect seizures, help pick things up off the ground, or even push hands away to alert the owner to panic attacks (like my friend and colleague, Amber Arquart who went viral with this video of her service dog, Oakley, last year)—can take years.
Dr. Sip: There is a great, digestible breakdown here about service dogs and emotional support dogs if you are curious as to what they can do for their owners.
Melissa: The important things are to be respectful of individual preferences if you have a non-service pet, know the rideshare rules, do your best to pay it forward with good petiquette, don’t pretend your pet is a service animal if it’s not, and if your service animal is turned away, contact the rideshare service immediately.
Dr. Sip: We’re guessing drivers are pretty good natured for the most part, since they’d probably prefer a chatty parrot to an overly-chatty drunk frat boy, and we’re told some even keep a blanket in the trunk and a box of biscuits for your pet’s needs!
Melissa: So, Sarah, get that iguana in a carrier, warn your driver as soon as you request the ride, and tip well.
More about Dr. Sip (who is a practicing veterinarian in Berkeley, CA) and Trainer Melissa (who wrote “Considerations for the City Dog”) can be found here. We love questions! If you have one, ask away!