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Gallup estimates that 60 percent of Americans own pets. That’s a lot of pets! If you’re a pet owner and a regular customer of Uber and Lyft, there is no doubt that a day will come when you’ll need to take your pet with you.
But, what are Uber’s and Lyft’s policies towards pets? Are you allowed to take pets in a Lyft or Uber ride?
Ridester looks into these questions and finds the answers you need.
- Are You Allowed to Take Pets in an Uber or Lyft?
- What About Service Animals?
- Service Animal Documentation
- What Types of Work Do Service Animals Do?
- Tips for Riders With Pets
Well, it depends. The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think. But that’s the nature of using companies whose workers aren’t employees.
Since Uber and Lyft drivers aren’t employees, Uber and Lyft can’t really command them to allow all pets. Drivers are independent contractors who drive their own cars – not company cars.
In the case of both companies, drivers are allowed to use their discretion when it comes to accepting pets on rides. The exception is service animals, which we’ll talk about in a minute.
But both companies recommend that you call the driver right after he accepts your call and inform him that you have a pet and ask if he’s okay with that.
“If you’re planning to ride with a pet that’s not a service animal, it’s good practice to contact the Uber driver who accepted your ride request to let them know. You can use the Uber app to send a text message or call your driver.
“Please help drivers keep vehicles clean for all riders by bringing a carrier or blanket to reduce the risk of damage or mess. Some drivers may keep a blanket or other covering in the trunk of their vehicle.
“Out of respect for other riders, unless you have a service animal, pets are not allowed on uberPOOL trips.”
“Although drivers aren’t allowed to bring their own own (sic) 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.
“We advise passengers to call their drivers after their ride request is accepted to confirm that it’s OK to bring their pets.
“As a driver, if you’re comfortable with it, passengers love it when you go the extra mile, so feel free! But if you’d prefer to not have their pet (that is, a non-service animal) in your car for any reason, be friendly and politely ask the passenger to cancel the ride. If they’re charged a fee, they can reach out to us by tapping ‘Contact Support’ below and we’ll take care of it.”
If a passenger has a service animal, drivers from both companies are required, not only by the companies themselves, but by law as well, to allow the animals.
According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “a service animal is any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability.”
The ADA does not consider any other species but dogs as service animals (except for miniature horses – which of course are not allowed because of their large size).
So, while your Uber or Lyft driver may be required to haul your dog, they are not ever required to carry your cat.
Another requirement of the American with Disabilities Act is one that seriously annoys many drivers. And it is that a business or service provider is not allowed to ask for or require any documentation whatsoever:
“A public entity or private business may not ask about the nature or extent of an individual’s disability or require documentation, such as proof that the animal has been certified, trained or licensed as a service animal, or require the animal to wear an identifying vest.”
If a customer claims their pet dog is a service animal, their word must be accepted. However, service providers are allowed to ask two specific questions.
The ADA states that to determine if an animal is a service animal, a public entity or a private business may ask two questions:
- Is this animal required because of a disability?
- What work or task has this animal been trained to perform?
These questions may not be asked if the need for the service animal is obvious (e.g., the dog is guiding an individual who is blind or is pulling a person’s wheelchair).
The following tasks of an animal are not considered work or tasks under the ADA’s definition of service animal:
- Emotional support
- Crime deterrence
If a passenger tells you the task their dog is trained to perform is one of those – you do not have to accept that passenger.
Check out this video where a woman tried to scam a Lyft driver into believing he was legally obligated to accept her dog. In this case, the driver knew his stuff and got it exactly right.
In the video, the driver properly and legally asks the passenger for what purpose the dog is trained. The woman says it’s trained as an emotional support animal. But, as we just learned, emotional support dogs are not covered under the ADA, so the driver is under no obligation whatsoever to take her and her dog.
Some people think they know just what to say to force drivers to transport their animals. And if drivers don’t know the law, many of them will be fooled. But this driver knew the law and was under no obligation to carry the woman’s dog.
You hear many driver complaints about having to accept dogs on rides. The complaints often focus around riders who claim their dog is a service animal, but where the driver can’t see any visible signs of a physical need for a service animal.
There are reasons, however, why drivers may not be able to see a physical need. Service dogs are not necessarily performing a service every moment and they’re not necessarily performing a service that you can see.
Here is a list from the ADA of the types of services these dogs can perform. We’ve bolded the ones that you would most likely not be able to see with a passenger who is taking a short trip in your car.
- Assisting individuals who are blind or have low vision with navigation and other tasks.
- Alerting individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing to the presence of people or sounds.
- Providing non-violent protection or rescue work.
- Pulling a wheelchair.
- Assisting an individual during a seizure.
- Alerting individuals to the presence of allergens.
- Retrieving items such as medicine or the telephone.
- Providing physical support and assistance with balance and stability to individuals with mobility disabilities.
- Helping individuals with psychiatric and neurological disabilities by preventing or interrupting impulsive or destructive behaviors.
While you would obviously be able to notice if a dog was assisting an individual who is blind, you would not be able to detect a dog who assists your passenger in the event they have a seizure – unless they had a seizure in your presence.
It’s important for drivers to know that these dogs provide valuable and necessary services, but those services are not always evident during a brief encounter.
If you’re a rider with a pet, you can do things to help make the trip a pleasant experience for everyone.
First, keep in mind you’re probably riding in the driver’s personal car. She owns it and if your pet messes it up, she may understandably be very upset about that.
Also keep in mind that many drivers simply do not want animals in their car for any reason whatsoever. So, even if you have a service animal and the driver allows it, just remember he may still be annoyed by it.
For Riders With Pets or Service Animals:
- If your animal is a service animal, call the driver before he arrives and simply tell him you have a pet. Ask if he’s okay with it. If he says yes, then you know he’s really okay with it because he doesn’t know it’s a service animal so he wasn’t forced to say yes. Yes, you can force him to take you if you need to for any reason, but if you want the most comfortable trip possible, this is the best way to ensure the driver really doesn’t mind.
- For all riders with animals, remember that you’re in the driver’s personal car. Try to keep things as clean as possible for them. You should make the animal sit or lie on the floor, as many drivers will get very upset if there is dog hair on the seats when you leave. That’s because the next passenger has to sit there and may give your driver a lower rating if they find dog hair all over the seats.
- Bring a pet carrier, if at all possible. It’s not required but drivers will really appreciate it. And if your pet isn’t a service animal, it will greatly increase the likelihood that the driver will allow you to take your pet on the trip.
- Leave a tip. It’s not required of course, but greatly appreciated. Keep in mind that even if you’re with a service animal and have an absolute right to be picked up – it’s still extra work for the driver if your dog sheds at all. Drivers must keep their cars very clean in order to get high ratings. So, if your dog sheds, your driver will have to put in some extra effort and possibly cash, to get her car clean again.
- Whatever you do – whether your dog is a service animal or just a pet – please make sure the dog has relieved itself before you leave so that he/she will not do so during the trip!
Pets in Uber and Lyft Rides: Respect and Understanding Make It Work
Taking your pet along in an Uber ride can be convenient, but you should understand that drivers are not required to transport it unless it’s an actual service animal per the ADA’s definition. As a driver, you should know that you are legally obligated to transport service animals, but you don’t have to transport other types of animals if you don’t want to do so.
Overall, the most important thing is that both passengers and drivers respect and communicate with each other. As long as this happens, you can avoid issues related to taking pets in Uber or Lyft rides.
Jonathan Cousar began driving for Uber in 2013 when the ride-hail company first began operations in New York City. He has booked more than 7,000 trips. In 2014 he created Uber Driver Diaries, which was the first blog by an Uber driver describing the highs and lows of driving as well as offering tips and tricks and information on the industry as a whole. In 2016 Ridester acquired the site, and Jonathan began writing full-time about the rideshare industry and the gig economy. He has also done extensive research into driver issues related to pay and working conditions.