While driving for Uber or Lyft, you may occasionally meet a passenger who wants to bring their furry friend along for the ride. At first, the limitations regarding pets can seem a bit unclear, regardless of which rideshare company you’re working for. More often than not, allowing pets is entirely up to the driver’s discretion, but should your passenger be accompanied by a service animal, you absolutely cannot refuse to allow the animal in your vehicle. There are some pretty steep consequences for denying a service animal, and so a general rule of thumb is to both prepare your car for and to expect furry passengers while driving.
The Rules Regarding Non-Service Animals
If a passenger arrives at your car with their pet, and the animal is clearly not a service animal, you are permitted to decline the ride at your own discretion. There are a few reasons why you may not want an animal in your car, the most common being the potential mess that shed fur or dirty paws could cause to the interior of your vehicle. These are rational concerns and could very well infringe upon your time and performance for the rest of the day, so it’s understandable to decline a pet under these circumstances.
Should you feel uncomfortable allowing a particular animal on board, always be sure to politely ask the rider if the pet is a service animal first. Due to the very strict laws surrounding service animals, it’s always best to double check and protect yourself before you make your decision. If the animal is not a service animal, you may civilly inform the passenger that you won’t be able to transport their pet. At this point, they may cancel their ride and request another driver.
Always let your passenger know that even though they canceled the ride, if they reach out to Uber or Lyft and explain the situation, they will most likely receive a refund for the ride cancellation fee they’ll incur. Also, to help your passenger in the future, advise them to give their driver a call in advance to make sure they’ll be okay with the rider bringing along their pet.
Otherwise, feel free to welcome on any pets that you encounter!
Federal Law – Uber, Lyft & Service Animals
Federal law is quite clear on service animals. According to the Americans With Disabilities Act, businesses that serve the public generally must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities in all areas of the facility where the public is normally allowed to go.
So, when it comes to the law, you must allow a service animal in your vehicle. Failure to do so can not only get you deactivated from the Uber or Lyft system, but can also leave you open to a lawsuit for violating someone’s civil rights!
In fact, federal law is so strict when it comes to service animals, that you are even limited in the questions you can ask the owner of the service animal. From the ada.gov site:
When it is not obvious what service an animal provides, only limited inquiries are allowed. Staff may ask two questions: (1) is the dog a service animal required because of a disability, and (2) what work or task has the dog been trained to perform. Staff cannot ask about the person’s disability, require medical documentation, require a special identification card or training documentation for the dog, or ask that the dog demonstrate its ability to perform the work or task.
So, that’s it. You can ask if the dog is a service animal, and what work the dog has been trained to perform. Any other questions are improper and a violation of the law.
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Lyft’s Service Animal Policy
Lyft is pretty clear with their stance on service animals: Always Say Yes. There’s no room for doubt there. You absolutely may not refuse service to a passenger who is accompanied by a service animal, regardless of your personal stance on transporting animals, allergies, or any other objection. This may be important to keep in mind if you’re uncertain about driving with pets in your car, seeing as there are some pretty strict consequences for breaking that rule.
Lyft defines a service animal as any animal trained to perform tasks for a person with a disability. They are not required to wear anything to indicate they are a service animal, nor do they need to be registered. Riders do not need to provide proof that the animal is a service animal. Therefore, if a rider claims the pet is a service animal, you must absolutely take them at their word for it and transport that animal.
Should you refuse a passenger with a service animal, you can suffer immediate and permanent deactivation from driving for Lyft. That’s an extremely harsh punishment, so the best advice I can give is to follow their all-encompassing rule: Always Say Yes.
Uber’s Service Animal Policy
Uber’s policy is substantially similar to Lyft’s when it comes to service animals. Always says yes. You may ask if the animal is required because of a disability, and you may ask what work they have been trained to perform, but you may not ask for any details regarding the passenger’s disability or medical documentation. In that same way, you cannot demand the passenger present any sort of registration for the animal.
As with Lyft, Uber does not require that a service animal wear any sort of uniform nor display any identification as a registered service animal. They do not approve of denying a ride to any passenger with a service animal based on fear, allergies, or religious objection.
If you deny service to a passenger with a service animal, you are considered in violation of your driver-partner agreement, and you will be permanently prevented from using the Driver App as soon as an investigation is completed regarding the incident. They may not have a catchy phrase surrounding their service animal policies, but Uber is just as severe as Lyft when it comes to declining rides. All in all, you’re best off just saying yes to any animals you encounter.
Why Uber & Lyft Are So Strict About Service Animals
The reason Uber & Lyft take service animal policy so seriously is that it is a massive liability issue. If they weren’t as strict as they were, there would be facing multiple civil rights lawsuits that they would be highly likely to lose. Also, if it became a large enough news story, the Justice Department would likely investigate. Uber already has enough trouble in that area, and Lyft wants to continue to avoid that type of trouble.
Extra Rules for Driver Pets
As a general rule, drivers are not permitted to bring their pets with them out of respect for passenger comfort and allergies. However, if you have your own personal service animal, you are within your rights to have that animal accompany you while you drive.
It’s worth noting that even though you are permitted to have a service animal as an Uber or Lyft driver, you should make every effort to reach out to your passengers before pick-up. Once you accept a ride, make sure you contact your rider to let them know you have an animal, ask if they have any objections to the animal, and warn them that you are one seat short if they need a full car to transport their party. If they have any objections, they may cancel their ride request and reach out to Uber or Lyft to receive a refund for their cancellation fee. Both companies are typically understanding of this unique situation and neither passenger nor driver will be held responsible. In the end, as with all rides you accept, communicating with your passenger can save a great deal of hassle.