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Taxi and Rideshare Refusal: What Assistance Dog Handlers Need to Know

Team Gus from Assistance Dogs Australia, catch a taxi

Travelling with Assistance Dogs on taxis, rideshares and other public transport is a legally protected right in Australia. This has been the case for many years. To be precise, it’s been 32 years since the Federal Government’s Disability Discrimination Act enshrined in law the rights of Australians with disabilities – including the rights of those with Assistance Dogs.

States and Territories followed suit, with myriad provisions put in place to ensure that people with disabilities can participate fully in their communities without fear of prejudice. One of those provisions is the ability to travel with their Assistance Dog in taxis and rideshare services.

This article, contributed by Assistance Dogs Australia, explains what the law says and actions you can take if you’re refused.

An Assistance Dog accompanies their handler on public transport

Travelling with assistance dogs on public transport

If you have an Assistance Dog and need to catch a taxi, rideshare, or hire vehicle, you’re absolutely allowed to bring your furry friend along.

Access to public passenger vehicles is crucial for people with disabilities for many reasons. These include social inclusion and independence, economic participation, healthcare access, and reduced reliance on carers.

And yet three decades after this important legislation was enacted, service dog providers including Assistance Dogs Australia (ADA) report that their clients are still frequently refused carriage in taxis and rideshares.

Here’s a video from ABC with more information on this issue.

A black service dog in a blue service vest uses its mouth to pull open a door with a rope attached to the handle

What the law says about Assistance Dogs on taxis

While the specifics vary slightly from state to state, generally speaking, it is illegal under point-to-point transport laws for taxi and rideshare drivers to refuse to carry you and your Assistance Dog. This applies even if the pup is still in training*. (Speaking of training, here’s what’s involved in Assistance Dog training.)

It also applies whether you book the ride in advance or hail it from the street.

Here are some common questions answered travelling with assistance dogs on taxis and other public transport:

FAQ – Assistance Dogs on taxis, rideshares and other public transport

  • Got a driver who’s allergic to dogs? Tough luck for them – allergies aren’t a valid excuse to refuse service. The same goes for any religious or cultural beliefs; they still can’t turn you away.
  • Where does my Assistance Dog sit? Your Assistance Dog will usually travel in one of the footwells in the car, either in the front passenger seat or in the back. The driver should move the seats around to make enough space for both of you.
  • Does my dog need a seatbelt? There’s no need to secure your Assistance Dog with a seatbelt. They should stay with you at all times. Of course, everyone’s safety is important, so the driver needs to keep the vehicle under control and make sure they can see the road clearly.

New fines: Taxi and rideshare refusal

It’s up to rideshare services to educate their drivers around the law on transporting Assistance Dogs. Drivers too, need to ensure they’re fully aware of their responsibilities or they may be facing heavy penalties.

With the rights of Assistance Dogs on public transport having been legally protected for decades now, the fact that people are still being turned away has recently resulted in newer and more hefty fines.

If a driver refuses to take you and your Assistance Dog, they’re looking at a hefty fine – now $1000, increased in May 2024 from $300, with the maximum penalty being $3300. This makes it clear that refusing service to someone with an Assistance Dog is a big no-no and helps keep things safe for everyone.

An Assistance Dog brings its handler their phone to report a refusal of carriage on taxis

What can you do if you’re refused?

If you run into any trouble while travelling with Assistance Dogs, like a driver refusing to take you or not using the meter, first complain to the service provider (the taxi or rideshare company or booking service). If your Assistance Dog is part of an organisation like Assistance Dogs Australia, let them know too. They will often be able to advocate on your behalf.

You can also report the issue to the taxi council or point to point transport commissioner in your state. In NSW, that’s the Point to Point Transport Commissioner’s 24-hour Taxi Fare Hotline at 1800 500 410.

Make sure you have details like the date, time, location, taxi company, and number plate handy. This info helps direct your complaint to the right people quickly. And don’t forget, you can always report safety and fare issues to the local police too.

A close-up of an Assistance Dog pressing the button on a traffic light to assist their handler in moving around in public, on their way to catch a taxi

More about travelling with Assistance Dogs

Here’s more info on travelling with Assistance Dogs on public transport by car or plane:

Now that we’ve explored travelling with Assistance Dogs on taxis and other public transport, here’s something else worth learning more about…

Protecting Assistance Dogs and Pets with insurance

Have you ever wondered whether pet insurance for Assistance Dogs is worth it? While choosing insurance is a personal decision, having the facts at hand is helpful in making any choice.

Pet insurance covers a wide range of unexpected vet bills for accidents, illness and even dental health problems, depending on your chosen level of cover. Like humans, even our Assistance Dogs need medical help occasionally. But vet bills can be costly since vet clinics have high overheads in running what are essentially ‘animal hospitals.’

As Australia’s first disability and independence insurance specialist, Blue Badge Insurance is aware of the good work Assistance Dogs do. We realise you don’t want to be apart any longer than needed. We offer up to 25% off Assistance Dogs insurance and up to 15% off pet insurance if you have a disability parking permit.

Click below to get a quote.

* Trainee Assistance Dogs are not covered by legislation in all states

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