Animal rights groups and the Consumers’ Foundation called on the government to draft an act on pet transport, as no law exists to regulate the welfare of animals when they are being transported, which results in inconsistency in services and surcharges across the nation.
Management of pet travel varies from one operator to another in terms of size restrictions or surcharges, with several bus companies not allowing animals at all, according to an investigation by the foundation into the nation’s 57 transport operators.
However, the Transportation Management Regulations (汽車運輸業管理規則) stipulate that small pets can travel on buses at half price — while guide dogs can travel for free — except in the case of aggressive animals such as snakes or crocodiles, foundation secretary-general Lu Hsin-chang (盧信昌) said.
The government should standardize pet transport by drafting legislation after consultating with operators, he said.
Most existing regulations address animal transport only tangentially, as they have evolved from traffic rules rather than animal rights, Environment and Animal Society of Taiwan chief executive Wu Hung (朱增宏) said.
The Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) allows for the transport of live animals as part of economic activities, including pigs, cows and sheep, with the exception of domestic fowl, Chu said, adding that the act should be amended to make up the inadequacy.
Meanwhile, the Pet Friends Alliance is calling for the nation’s taxi drivers to create a pet-friendly transport system, with 21 cabbies and a taxi company already offering pet taxi services, alliance chairman Louis Tsai (路易斯) said.
The alliance gives out certificates to taxi drivers who are willing to transport animal passengers, he said.
Among them is a 40-year-old taxi driver, referred to by the pseudonym Ou Yang (歐陽), who became a full-time pet taxi driver after he witnessed an emergency involving a large Bernese mountain dog — which nearly died due to the lack of available transportation — after which he came to understand the importance of animals’ right to travel, he said.
He described himself as an “animal maniac,” and has served various types of passengers, including dogs, cats and sugar gliders, he said.
He keeps the trunk of his taxi empty and has covered it with layers of waterproof mats for animal travelers, offering complimentary cookies and jerky to ease passengers’ travel tension, he said.
Transporting pets is a charity business, he said, as he does not add a surcharge to the fare, nor does he charge for waiting during veterinarian visits.
It takes between 14 and 16 hours to serve just five to six animal passengers, which is far from cost-effective, he said, adding that business was shaky in the first six months after he entered the market.
He also transports abandoned pets to shelters, he said, adding that he once traveled from Taipei to Kaohsiung to rescue two abandoned Labradors.
Even though animals might leave a smell in the car or scratches on his arms, he is not bothered at all, because animals are not at all different from normal human passengers, he said.
The alliance has been encouraging pet taxi services for more than three years, because taxis — the most utilized form of transportation by pet owners for veterinarian visits or to do outdoor training — are usually not willing to transport pets, as most drivers balk at taking animals for fear that a lingering smell might drive away human passengers, Tsai said.
Improved animal transport might help reduce pet abandonment, as owners might find it less troublesome to take their pets out, he said.
However, many taxi companies willing to provide a pet taxi service pulled out from the market, as they said customers had complained of smells and hairs left behind by dogs and cats, he said, adding that the number of pet taxi drivers has stagnated.
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