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Take your pet places

Your dog, cat or even hamster can travel in style, riding with one of the many pet taxi services

Once a month, property portfolio manager Joreen Tan takes her dog Taco Bell, a three-year-old labrador, out for a treat.

Sometimes, they stroll along Sentosa's Tanjong Beach, where Taco Bell gets to swim in the cool waters and play with other dogs. Other times, she takes it to a dog run area in Bishan, where it can play freely without a leash.

And they get there in style, via taxi. Pet taxi, to be precise.

While pet taxi services have been available in Singapore since the 1990s, the growing number of licensed dogs in Singapore - from about 47,000 in 2006 to 62,000 in 2015 - seems to have created a greater demand for such services.

A quick online search reveals at least 20 providers here, all accepting dogs, many happy to take cats, and a couple welcoming other kinds of pets such as hamsters and rabbits.

Some require pets to be placed in a crate during the journey, while others do not.

Fares usually depend on the distance travelled, with one-way and round trips starting at $20 and $25 respectively.

In recent years, some pet taxi services with unique selling points have emerged to differentiate themselves from the competition.

Fancy a luxurious ride? The Wagington, a luxury hotel for pet dogs and cats in Loewen Road, has got you covered.

Since 2014, it has offered a "limo service" for pets in an air-conditioned mini-van complete with plush leather seats. Pets can sit in the backseat like a boss.

Pet owners who have a precise time and pick-up location in mind can turn to the app-based PetMate service, which operates on a sharing-economy model and is similar to an Uber for pets.

With a database of 1,000 drivers in Singapore - of which 250 are active on a daily basis - this app, launched in 2015, is likely to send a pet-friendly, well-trained driver your way at the time you want.

Singapore is still not a very dog-friendly place. We can't use public transport - except for guide dogs - and not all taxis are willing to let a dog on board. That's why I turn to pet taxis.

MS JOREEN TAN on hiring a pet taxi when she takes her labrador on outings

If there is an emergency in the dead of night, some services also operate round the clock and can take your pet to an animal clinic.

Users say they like the convenience of a pet taxi.

Ms Tan, 30, a Singaporean who has been using a Pampered Pet Taxi service for the last two years, says: "Sadly, Singapore is still not a very dog-friendly place. We can't use public transport - except for guide dogs - and not all taxis are willing to let a dog on board. That's why I turn to pet taxis."

Dr Irene Gallego Romero, 32, an academic, uses a service from Pet Mobile to take her two cats - Pinot Noir and Malbec - to their regular vet appointments. She says: "When we have an appointment, we can't just wait until we find a taxi willing to take us there. We need to be sure we are there on time, hence the pet taxi."

Currently, pet taxis do not require a permit or licence from the Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority to operate.

However, the authority issued the Code of Animal Welfare (for the Pet Industry) last year, which sets standards for the care of animals, including proper handling and transport, that pet taxi operators are expected to comply with.

The authority's spokesman says it will investigate any allegations of animal cruelty or welfare contraventions pertaining to pet taxi services.

The Consumers Association of Singapore has not received any complaints involving pet taxi services.

Nonetheless, its executive director, Mr Loy York Jiun, 43, advises consumers planning to engage such services to do their research on service providers by reading reviews by past customers. This is to assess the service providers' reliability and reputation in delivering pets safely to their destination.

Should a dispute arise, consumers should first try to settle it directly with the service provider.

They may also approach Case for assistance if the service provider is a registered business in Singapore, he adds.


Who to call
 

THE WAGINGTON

This luxury pet hotel has been offering a pet taxi service since 2014.

Within three years, bookings have risen by 20 to 30 per cent, averaging about 30 trips a week.

Rates depend on the distance travelled, with a one-way 5km trip costing $20. Longer or two-way trips can go up to $50.

The Wagington's managing director, Ms Estelle Tayler, 34, says: "We have clients booking the taxi services every day to go to doggy daycare and back home."

Info: Call 6471-1689 or go to thewagington.com.sg

PETMATE

Started in 2015, this app-based service is similar to Uber, but for pets. Download it, select your pick-up location, intended time, destination and pet description and you are ready to go.

It gets about 150 to 200 bookings a week, with up to 50 bookings a day on weekends. Rates depend on the distance travelled.

Its marketing director, Ms Joanne Huang, 33, says: "All our drivers - many pet owners themselves - need to go through training.

"We have a strict driver performance review, where passengers get to rate their driver and provide feedback.

"Drivers who receive low ratings and complaints may be given warnings, asked to come in for more training or banned from the app."

Info: The app is available free on iOS and Android. Go to petmate.me

PAMPERED PET TAXI

Pampered Pet Taxi is the pet taxi service provider for Pet Lovers Centre, Singapore's largest online and retail pet shop.

The taxi service has been around since 2011. It prides itself on its highly personalised service and pet-friendly staff.

Its vehicle interiors are sanitised daily with Byotrol, a microbial solution that provides protection against bacteria, viruses, fungi, mould and algae.

One of its pet handlers, Ms Adeline Goh, 38, says: "We have a growing pool of clients who value our services.

"We are very selective about whom we engage as pet taxi drivers because we want to give the best service to our customers."

Info: Call 1800-738-8294 or go to pamperedpettaxi.com

PET MOBILE

Established in 2002, this Singapore-based company provides safe, comfortable trips for pets any time they need to travel around.

The company also offers pet sitting, dog walking and pet boarding services.

Info: Call 9099-8511 or go to www.petmobile.com.sg

STARSHINE INC PETS

This is a 24-hour islandwide service and it bills itself as affordable and flexible.

Info: Call 9856-1855 or go to www.facebook.com/Starshine_ Inc-Pets-324168007629905

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 19, 2017, with the headline 'Take your pet places'. Print Edition | Subscribe