Transporting Customers With Pets

By: Paul Stephens

There are many types of pets people have these days: dogs, cats, iguanas, snakes, parrots, ferrets … just name it and someone probably has one as a pet.  A lot of time we think of transporting a customer as part of the job.  Then there is the added problem of customers who bring along a furry friend.  We have all been there, dealing with customers who had pets along when they unexpectedly broke down.  Especially those pets that are treated like children will be likely to be riding in the vehicles when an unexpected problem arises.  One of the most important things is that you understand that, to many owners, their pets are more important than the vehicle or situation they are currently in.  We often focus on the human aspect of calls, but what about other species?  This part of the job and call info is rarely transferred to the towing company and more rarely transferred to the towing company and more rarely yet to the operator.  When should the average pet be relocated by a trusted companion or other method rather than in the tow truck?

What’s Policy?

While that breakdown becomes a bigger problem for the vehicle owner’s concern for their pet, it also becomes a bigger consideration for the driver on the scene.  Do you have a company policy or uniform understanding on handling animals?  If so, has it been communicated to the staff effectively?  Vehicle owners are confronted with the issue of how to keep the animal sage and relatively calm while still allowing the tower access to the vehicle to load and transport … all this while likely under added stress of the disablement.  Upon arrival, conversations with the customer can go a long way with setting the expectation as to where the animal with ride during the transport.  Weather can play a deciding role in exactly how to proceed with your company policy as well, since an animal riding in a hot car can be devastating to the animal in a short period of time.  Sometimes it requires common sense-contacting a ride-share company, taxi or other means- to transport the customer and animal.  So, you want to attempt to do the right thing and allow the animal to ride in the climate-controlled cab?  There are things to consider that do lead some companies to refuse any animals into the cab of the tow truck.            For example:

    • Space.  The animal could potentially need to be controlled.  Depending on the size of the animal, how many customers are riding the cab itself, this can make difficult to                                                        have a place to put the pet’s paws/ claws/ whatever.
    • Allergies.  Some are pet-related and there is no way to completely control the revolving door of customers; a later allergic reaction by a different customer, no matter how well the cab is cleaned, is            always possible.  That’s not even accounting for your own employees’ potential allergies.
    • Bio.  An animal’s need for breaks, or susceptibility to car sickness, will impact the transport, especially on a longer trip.  Remember that a truck doesn’t ride like a car and the animal may already be            unnerved or agitated.

Again, explaining to the customer prior to loading the vehicle can help them understand clearly the company policies and why they are in place.  If your company has a strict No Animals Ride policy, there are things to consider when refusing the transport of animals in the cab of the truck.  The most important thing for the operator is to remedy the situation as best as possible while having the customer understand the animal must be kept in control the entire time you are present.  If the animal were to get loose while waiting, or while you are putting the vehicle in neutral, then you have a loose animal on a roadway who is already scared.

Service Animals

Are you and your company prepared to handle service animals?  Recently, my company had a situation where the operator felt the animal was a lap dog, the kind some people would keep in a purse.  The customer stated it was a service animal and it was being transported for an autistic child.  We have a clear and precise policy on animals, and this fell into the area of acceptable transport.  However, the issue was that the dog didn’t have a vest or ID marks on its collar noting its role as a service dog.  The operator felt the customer was not being truthful.  After some document examination, it was clearly a service animal and everything worked out find eventually.  The Americans with Disabilities Act defines service animals as any animal individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability.  It routinely handles complaints related to businesses or individuals who refuse service to customers with service animals.  These animals are protected by their custodian’s ADA rights; they usually cannot be denied service if identified as a service animal.  This brings into question the company policy of no animals in the cab of a tow truck or service vehicle.  Take caution if you are presented with a situation involving a service animal, as you are not expected to police the policy, only comply.  If the customer identifies the animal as a service animal and not a pet, you have the right to request documentation or to see the service animal vest and/ or collar.  We all know too many customers will try to get away with whatever they can not to be inconvenienced, however it can get dicey when it comes to service animals.  Understanding the laws can keep you out of trouble in an area that we don’t deal with as often as other businesses do.  If you company doesn’t have a policy, then you should really consider one as it will help drivers on the road with unruly animals, but also protect service      animals.