|Article Author: Maria Coder|
For urban mutts, pet taxi services offer a welcome alternative to hoofin' it by Maria Coder
Ever try hailing a cab in Manhattan with a puppy? Good luck. What about Boston? Seattle? L.A.? Chances are you and your four-legged friend got a good workout on your long walk home. You're not alone.
It doesn't matter where you live. Many taxicabs won't pick you up if you're with your pet. And if you live in a city without decent public transportation, then you know if you can't hide your Pug in your dog purse, neither one of you is going anywhere. It seems the general rule is: the bigger the pet, the bigger the problem.
But it doesn't have to be that way. Pet transportation, once something joked about among pet owners, is now in full swing. It seems many of us were too quick to laugh about our dogs getting a ride to day care while we had to schlep to work. Well, it's the dogs that are laughing now... all the way through rush hour traffic in their insulated, door-to-door, personalized car services. And let's be honest -- for many of us, that's a huge relief.
While the idea of a car service for a pet once seemed over-the-top, fruitless tries at getting a German Shepherd into a taxi taught us otherwise. Faced with the challenge of walking (half a mile? 2 miles? maybe 10 or more miles?) to doggie day care or the vet, we wondered if these pet car services were really onto something. Many also offer dog boarding, dog grooming, and dog walking services. It's like a one-stop shop!
Ira Cohen, owner of CanineCabCompany.com in New York City, says city life moves so fast that dog owners need to find ways to make sure their pets keep up the pace. "When the size of the dog becomes too great to put in a carrier, that's where we come in."
Airport pickups, vet runs, you name it, Cohen's either there or on his way there. "My clients think of their doggie as an equal part of the family and want their doggie to be in the best comfort." And comfortable they are! Cohen once had a dog sprawled along the dashboard. He says it was a struggle to lift the 60-pounder. "He didn't want to move, he was happy there." Eventually Cohen managed to get him out of his peripheral vision. "I had to drive with him on my lap." Front and center, indeed.
What you can expect
How much will a service like this set you back? Well, that all depends.
Take Manhattan, for instance. A one-way trip down 20 blocks will cost you about a dollar a block in many of the city's full-fledged pet taxis. A round trip fare usually doubles the cost with an occasional discount, usually in the $5-$10 range. If the car has to wait for your pup then there's an extra fee (from $10 up) for every 15 minutes of waiting. Most pet cabs offer a flat hourly rate in the $40 ballpark; that usually requires a 2-hour minimum. Leaving the city, however, adds up fast. You can expect to pay about $50 each way, plus any tolls and tip. Airport service starts at $60.
While these fares are higher than regular taxi fares, pet taxis are not only accepting of pets but better equipped to deal with your pet in case of an emergency.
Let's say your pet had an upset stomach. In a standard "for people" taxi, you'd be praying the driver wouldn't notice. Not in a pet taxi. Here, you'll hope the driver does notice. Chances are, he or she will have plenty of dog blankets, water, even a stretcher readily available for your pet! Most pet taxi services double up as pet ambulances. If ever there was a time for your pet to get sick, this is it.
Larry Reilly, owner of PetTaxi.com, also in New York City, says he makes all sorts of last-minute runs as well as routine trips. "Sometimes we go one block to the vet, other times we'll take a dog to Florida if he has to go." Reilly says one of his drivers drove a dog from New York to Miami for $4,000, only stopping to walk the dog.
While daily transport for your pet and occasional "special outings" can add up to a hefty bill, there are other factors to consider. Depending on the time of year, some airlines won't let your dog fly cargo. And have you ever tried fitting a Yellow Lab under the seat? You get the picture.
To Reilly, dogs are family. They're like children, and just like children there are costs that come with being a responsible parent or owner. "Would you say 'Why are you spending money on your kid to go to school?' or 'Why are you spending money on a jacket for your kid to wear outside?' It's that same kind of thing."
Book in advance
So what do you need to know to book a great ride for you and your pet? Call ahead. The busiest time to get a pet taxi is between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. when pet owners are making their way home from work. If the weather calls for rain or snow, the demand is through the roof. "If they know there's going to be a monsoon the next day, they need to call in advance," says Cohen.
He also reminds owners that the holidays can be stressful. The two days before and after a holiday are incredibly busy. If your city hosts any type of dog competition, bear in mind all those dogs (and there are a lot of them!) will likely use local pet taxi services to get to and from the airports.
Traffic can cause headaches to drivers and pets trying to make it to their appointments on time. Pet transport services suggest you budget at least 20 minutes for the car to make its way to you and backtrack when your pet needs to make it to its next location.
One of the advantages of these services is that while your pet may not be able to ride in a regular taxi with you, most pet taxis don't have such double standards. Owners are more than welcome to accompany their dogs on the ride. So in essence, it's like happy hour -- two for the price of one. What could be better?
In the end, most dog owners would rather let their dog be chauffeured around while they brave the weather conditions and deal with the long work hours and office politics. There's an invaluable peace of mind that comes with knowing your dog is in good hands. Owners can rest easy knowing their dog is getting wheeled around in style, head out the window (optional), paws to the wind.