Tiny Beagle Hanu, 8 months, and big Rottweiler Tyson, 5, love to feel the wind in their thick coats when they take a rickshaw to the vet or the dog park. But these fur babies don’t often get this treat as most auto and taxi drivers in Mumbai and its metropolitan area, even those affiliated with taxi aggregation services, deny them entry into their vehicles.
Some fear dogs; others think the animal will scratch their seats and dirty their taxis or cars and some are just too scared of their bosses who own the vehicle and are reluctant to do anything unconventional, says Shayamax Presswala, who runs a pet boarding and international pet transportation service in Colaba.
Bringing pets around the city is a tall order for most pet owners, especially those who don’t own a car or bike. “It’s always a challenge to find a car or taxi driver willing to transport Tyson,” says Anil Jha, the Rottweiler’s human parent. “It becomes a big problem when I don’t have access to a private car and transport my sick dog to the doctor.”
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But luckily there are a few kind-hearted drivers in town willing to ride with their furry customers, and according to Presswalla and Jha, they are to be applauded and celebrated for their service.
Rao Saheb Shinde, 50, of Panvel, has been the go-to car driver for several pet owners in and around his neighborhood for nearly three years now, since moving to the outskirts of town from Chembur . “Thanks to dogs and cats, I managed to have a loyal and regular clientele. Pet parents call me whenever they need to take their pets somewhere. It’s convenient for me because I don’t have to roam the streets looking for people,” says Shinde. This translates to additional income of Rs.4,000 to Rs.5,000 every month on top of what he earns from humans. “I always go by the meter, not asking more money for my customers’ pets. But most of them end up giving me Rs.50 to Rs.100 more if it’s a longer ride long,” he adds.
Shinde isn’t afraid of dogs, big or small, nor is he afraid to clean up after them. “Just because they can’t talk doesn’t mean I’m denying them a ride, especially when they’re sick,” he says. Also, most pet parents are very responsible and carry sheets with them to cover the auto rickshaw seat and have their pets sit on it, while others force their dogs to stand stand up and don’t let them get on the seat. They also dust off the dog or cat’s fur after the ride. “Even if they don’t, I don’t mind cleaning up after them,” Shinde adds.
Even car driver Pradip Pawar, 33, from Nerul is happy to transport pets, especially as his two-year-old son loves dogs. “Refusing to drive pets would be like refusing to drive my son’s friends,” says Pawar, who has been driving a part-time rickshaw for three years to supplement his income as a full-time security guard.
The building he previously worked in had a friendly Golden Retriever who played with Pawar almost every day. “I don’t know his name, but thanks to him I learned that dogs are neither aggressive nor fierce as claimed on many Youtube channels. They are affectionate animals, friendly and very dependent on humans. It’s basic humanity not to deny them a ride,” he adds.
Pradip Panwar says denying a ride to pets would be like denying a ride to his son’s friends.
(Courtesy of Pradip Panwar)
For Napean Sea Road taxi driver Ibrahim Sheikh, 34, the decision to transport pets in his taxi was purely financial. “Our business was hit hard during the Covid-19 lockdown,” says Sheikh. When a pet owner with four dogs, living in a nearby building, asked Sheikh if he would allow dogs in his taxi, he gladly agreed. “I’ve never had a problem with dogs, but I never thought of transporting animals as a side business. When I had an opportunity, I took it.”
After a few walks with his pet, Sheikh’s first pet recommended him to Presswalla. And for two years now, Sheikh has been picking up and dropping off pets from their homes, up Mira Road to Colaba and serving other direct customers as well. “The business of the pet boarding house and their customers is steady which helps me earn an extra Rs 5,000-6,000 every month as I continue to drive humans,” he adds. Moreover, many customers with pets usually pay him 100 to 200 rupees above the actual rate, which helps him to compensate for the losses caused during the pandemic.
Like most drivers featured in the story, Sheikh’s experience driving pets has also been enjoyable so far, except once when street dogs kept barking at a puppy sitting on the back of the car. passenger seat of his taxi, terrifying the little one. “I chased the street dogs, stopped the cab in a safe, vacant spot, took the pup for a short walk, and calmed him down before continuing on our way,” he says. “I find most dogs very affectionate and cute and I feel that as a driver it is my duty to transport them with as much love and respect as human passengers,” he adds.
South of Napean Sea Road in Thane, a married couple in their 30s launched an air-conditioned pet taxi service as early as 2018. Priti Shekhar, a business graduate who now runs the pet taxi business, and biomedical engineer Anil Dariyani, were moved to do so after a harrowing experience they had, trying to take their very ill Indie, the late Puggy, to a dog hospital in Parel.
“Puggy was an older dog then and got sick frequently. One day he started vomiting frequently and we had to rush him to the hospital, but we had a hard time convincing the taxi drivers to let him get in. their vehicle,” Shekhar recalled.
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After several refusals, the couple met a taxi driver, who not only let the sick Puggy in, but also stayed with the couple throughout the hospital treatment and drove them back to Thane. “We couldn’t thank this driver enough, also realizing an urgent need for a pet taxi service.”
So, for four years now, Dariyani has been working as a pet taxi driver, transporting pets to the airport, morning and late-night vet clinics while running his full-time pet supply business. laboratory equipment. The couple charge Rs 35 per kilometer for the service, counting the fare from the start point of the trip, their home in Thane.
It is thanks to these considerate humans that the pets of Mumbai have the chance to move around the city a bit.
Riddhi Doshi is a Mumbai-based Writer, Kathak Student and First Pet Parent