I like dogs… I really do.
I may not be coming home with an 8-week old Great Dane anytime soon, but I understand the appeal.
What I don’t like, however, is dog fur. Specifically, dog fur in my car, on my cloth seats.
Nope. Nope. Nope.
So when I started driving for Uber a few years back, one of the first things that I looked up was the rules for passengers with furry friends. It turns out, that drivers actually have a fair say in this… Except when it comes to service animals.
Service Animal Policies
When it comes to service animals, rideshare companies don’t make the rules, the government does.
Currently, both rideshare companies and taxi companies must follow ADA laws as transportation providers. After a 2014 lawsuit from the National Federation of the Blind, Uber and other rideshare companies implemented a strict Service Animal Policy. See them below:
Lyft Service Animal Policy
When it comes to transporting riders with service animals, drivers on the Lyft platform should remember one thing: Always Say Yes. That’s because drivers must comply with applicable laws and Lyft’s Service Animal Policy. The law and Lyft’s Service Animal Policy state that drivers may not deny service or otherwise discriminate against passengers with service animals. This means that drivers must transport a rider with a service animal regardless of whether a driver is allergic or afraid of these animals, or has a religious or cultural objection to them.
A service animal is an animal, usually a dog, that is trained to perform tasks for an individual with a disability, like blindness or deafness. Service animals are not required to wear a tag or vest or be registered. Riders with service animals do not need to display any kind of proof that their animal is a service animal. In other words, if a rider with a dog says it is a service animal, the driver should transport the rider.
Uber Service Animal Policy
State and federal law prohibit driver-partners using the Uber Driver App from denying service to riders with service animals because of the service animals, and from otherwise discriminating against riders with service animals. As explained in Uber’s Non-Discrimination Policy, driver-partners who engage in discriminatory conduct in violation of this legal obligation will lose their ability to use the Driver App.
Allowing service animals is a fair policy and a legal requirement so I have no problem with it. Service animals are well trained and generally docile dogs. However, there is the question of if the animal really is a service animal. The passenger could, after all, be lying to get there dog a ride. So it would make sense to ask for some sort of proof or documentation right?
According to the American with Disabilities Act, a business or service provider is not allowed to ask for or require documentation stating that a service dog is, in fact, a service dog.
You can, however, ask two very specific questions unless the need for a service animal is obvious.
- Is this animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?
The ADA states that these questions will determine if an animal is a service animal and if a passenger answers satisfactorily, you MUST accept that ride.
But… what is considered work or tasks under the ADA’s definition of a service animal? See a list of examples below:
- Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision
- Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds
- Pulling a wheelchair
- Alerting individuals to the presence of certain allergens
- Retrieving items like as medicine, a phone, or other emergency tools
- Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability
And what is NOT considered as a work task?
- Emotional support
- Crime deterrence or potentially violent protection
Non-service Animal Pet Policy
So yes, drivers must ensure that service animals are accommodated for legal reasons, however, the pet policy for non-service animals gives drivers more freedom to choose.
Lyft/Uber Non-Service Animal Pet Policy
Although drivers aren’t allowed to bring their own own furry friends along for the ride when driving (after all, some passengers have allergies or are otherwise uncomfortable with unfamiliar animals), some passengers will ask to bring their pets along with them when requesting a ride. Unless the passenger has a service animal, it’s entirely up to the driver whether or not to allow the passenger’s pet in the vehicle.
Drivers certainly don’t have to allow passengers to bring pets, however, if you take certain steps it shouldn’t be a problem to allow most dogs in your car AND avoid a hairy mess by communicating a few rules to your passenger.
Ask passengers to bring a pet carrier
Many owners of small dogs or cats will naturally bring a pet carrier when traveling, so if you have a passenger that calls and tells you they are bringing an animal, request that they bring a cage and have the animal stay in the cage for the entire ride.
Ask passengers to bring a towel
For larger dogs and animals that don’t have cages, I recommend either having your passenger bring a towel or blanket for the dog to sit on, or keeping one in your car. This will help keep the dog’s fur and claws off your seats.
Be mindful of the size of your car
Most passengers with larger dogs will naturally order an Uber XL and call you before attempting to get in the car with a 100-lb German Shepard. However, if you do run into someone that attempts to bring a large dog in an UberX, make sure that you can still safely and comfortably drive. If not, have the passenger request a larger vehicle.
Warn passengers about a potential cleaning fee
Unfortunately, even when we take precautions pets do occasionally make messes. If someone brings an uncaged pet in your vehicle, give them a heads up that sometimes cleaning fees occur. They’ll appreciate your transparency.