A blind woman recently won a court case against an Uber driver after he refused to carry her guide dog. I’m surprised we’re still hearing about our mini-cab friends refusing to take assistance dogs in their cars. Surely by now they know it’s a legal requirement? Maybe they need a talk about their responsibilities when they get their licence? (I’m assuming the minis don’t get the private hire equivalent of a Finals Talk, given the high number of licenses issued each week?).
There are 7000 assistance dogs working in the UK. There are hearing dogs, dogs for the blind; and a variety of other dogs used to accompany adults or children with other disabilities. There are six main categories of dog; each wearing one of six different coloured jackets, with their owners carrying an identity card bearing the name of the relevant charity.
All assistance dogs have undergone two years of intensive training and are very well behaved; certainly more than those kids who start fiddling with the switches as soon as they get in your cab. They all have regular heath checks – and don’t bite! There are no religious reasons for refusing a dog under UK law. When you refuse the dog, you’re refusing a vulnerable person. A taxi or private hire vehicle gives people with assistance dogs the confidence to travel independently. Those running a transport service should be proud to provide such an essential service.
Never mind the legislation, I go the extra mile to promote equal opportunities for all God’s creatures, whether they’re working animals or pets. I’ve never had a problem with animals in the cab, but I’ve had plenty of problems with people. In fact the only problems I’ve had with animals is at home when I’m slow to feed the cat, or when he’s dragging off household items: such as when he took a bunch of keys upstairs to hide under the bed; or when he hid the TV speaker remote control under a mat for a week. Bless his furry little self. I welcome our furry friends in all areas of life. For me, a comfortable pub is one where you have to step over a sleeping dog to get to the bar, and where the irritable pub cat dares you to sit on his chair. I like the way that in France you can take your pet out to dinner as part of the family. I’ve yet to see a cat or rabbit sat at the dinner table, but I love it when I see the dog’s head emerge from a lady’s handbag. Those Frenchies are way ahead.
I always stop to pick up people with dogs, and they’re usually grateful as they obviously get refusals. A dog invariably settles straight down to enjoy the ride in quiet contemplation – as our human customers should do. I’ve never had a dog making a noise, being drunk and obnoxious, smearing my clean windows, picking away foam from the spongy arm rest, criticising my route, or leaving pistachio shells on the carpet.
My strangest cab job involving an animal happened two years’ ago after responding to an account call in Soho. I waited a fair time until a woman got in with a dog. She sent me to Battersea, and to Barking Bettys (“Grooming for the Urban Dog”). The woman asked me to wait 20 minutes before taking her back to Soho. Parking wasn’t a problem, so I was happy to do so. She returned to say it would take another hour. The woman sat in the cab while doggie was pampered, and the clock ticked over 20p every few seconds. The pampering was taking longer than she anticipated and the lady decided she needed the loo. She found a café to use – though I thought afterwards I should have suggested she use a litter tray at Barking Betty’s. In the end I waited 2 ¾ hours, but we got back to Soho quickly and everyone was happy. God knows who the account holder was, but it cost them £164 (plus automatic tip). The dog looked clean and happy, clearly oblivious to the expense involved. I’m not sure who was the most barking that day.
In these austere times we can’t afford to turn passengers down; either when they’re going south when we want to go north, or if the passenger has a dog with them. You may not want to take a regular pet dog, but its good customer practice to take all animals. You might actually enjoy the experience.
Copyright: Chris Ackrill, 2016.