Saturday, November 25, 2017

My latest Uber-dog adventure

Who could refuse a face like Trooper's?
A couple of weeks ago, while riding the rails through Canada on our latest research trip for Places We Have Peed: Traveling with Service Dogs in North America, Trooper and I had an interesting adventure in Toronto.

We had just emerged from the Royal Ontario Museum and called an Uber to return to our hotel.

When he spotted the service dog, the first driver sped up and hightailed it out of there.

So did the second driver.

And the third.

The fourth finally picked us up.

I will not mention the ethnicity of the drivers who refused to carry a dog in their cars (Uber apps show their names, the makes of their cars, and their license numbers) except to say that some in that group have religious scruples about dogs, and some don’t. (The fourth driver was a Sikh.)

Earlier this year Trooper and I had been stiffed on a ride in Washington, D.C., and I had told Uber customer service that if the company re-educated the driver on his legal obligations to carry passengers with service dogs, the matter would go no further.  Uber did, or so it said.

Canada has similar laws. So I sent an acerbic e-shot across Uber’s bows again, telling the company that since I was an American citizen in a foreign country, I wasn’t going to get embroiled in a legal mess. I hadn't been able to record the names and license plates of the drivers, anyway.

But do something, I said. Educate your Toronto drivers! (Uber’s customer service Web page, by the way, actually has a box to check if one has a service dog issue. That’s how big the problem is.)

Uber headquarters sent me the usual boilerplate about how sorry it was and how it was going to make sure its drivers obeyed the law.

A few days later I learned that Uber had sent out a new and tougher service dog policy to all its Canadian drivers. Coincidence? Maybe. Maybe my complaint was just the last of many straws.

Unlike the United States’ American with Disabilities Act, which hands all the cards to service dog teams, Canada’s Human Rights Act recognizes competing rights in situations like mine. An Uber or taxi driver can refuse to pick up a service dog team if he believes that doing so would violate his religious beliefs or endanger his health. But a compromise must be made.

Uber’s new Canadian policy: If a driver believes a service dog team impinges on religion or health, he can refuse to carry the team—but he must stop on the spot and arrange for another driver to provide the ride.

That would have worked for me.

Hmm. Canada’s law sounds sensible and even-handed to me, and so does Uber’s new policy. If that evangelical Christian baker in Colorado had arranged for another boulangerie to create a wedding cake for a gay couple, maybe that contretemps—soon to be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court—could have been avoided.


  1. Great educational report! Rational resolution of competing interests seems so foreign here in the US, and in this case it is.

  2. Of course a regular taxi would have been a good solution.