Booking a ride to the vet is often a frustrating affair for project manager Michelle Lejtenyi.
Even though she has a dog with her whenever she makes a booking, most drivers — covering both taxi and ride-hailing services — decline the job when they arrive and see her with Bella, a fairly large Singapore Special.
Ms Lejtenyi, who is in her 40s, says: “The entire process takes around 20 minutes each time. While I get matched to a driver easily when I make the booking, I usually get cancelled five to six times on average before getting a driver who’s willing to take us.”
Answering the need by pet owners in Singapore, Grab launched GrabPet.
The new service allows pets and their owners to travel comfortably in cars driven by driver-partners who have been trained by a certified pet trainer.
Reacting to the good news, Ms Lejtenyi says she is “definitely looking forward to my first booking”.
GrabPet is the first pet transportation service in the country to offer additional insurance coverage for pets onboard.
For maximum comfort and safety, all GrabPet vehicles are also equipped with an in-car kit including a backseat cover, microfibre towel and air freshener.
Unlike most existing pet transportation services which require advance booking, GrabPet allows customers to book rides on-demand, 24/7.
Fares start from $14 and all household pets approved by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore — except birds — are permitted when accompanied by human passengers.
A maximum of two medium-sized pets (up to 41cm in height from shoulder to ground) or one large pet (41cm in height and above) is allowed on a GrabPet ride. Pets must be in a crate or leashed at all times.
Head of Grab Singapore, Lim Kell Jay, stresses on the importance of riders’ needs to the company: “Services like GrabAssist, GrabFamily and GrabPet will not only make transport more accessible for different segments of the community, but also provide our driver-partners with opportunities to earn more.”
“As Grab works hard to become the ‘super-app’ that can meet everyday needs in Singapore, we welcome feedback from our customers on how we can further improve these services,” he adds.
According to Grab, hundreds of driver-partners have already been trained by Patrick Wong, a dog trainer with over 30 years of experience. Mr Wong has trained over 15,000 dogs, including performance dogs for TV productions, stage performances and musicals.
Private-hire driver Valarie Yeo, 24, signed up for the training as she wanted to support this new service. She has picked up riders with pets before, who often expressed their wish for a dedicated pet transport service.
“GrabPet allows drivers like me to earn a bit more, so there’s the added benefit,” she says.
“Many pet owners have been facing problems when they travel, and pet taxis tend to be expensive. GrabPet provides relatively cheaper options,” says 24-year-old driver Wendy Tan.
“While a GrabPet ride costs slightly more than UberPET in the past, it offers additional insurance coverage for the pets, so owners can feel at ease when travelling.”
In the training, Mr Wong emphasised two key points: “Safety first. The last thing we want to see is the driver injured. Secondly, the driver must treat the animals well at all times and not provoke them.”
Able hands, kind hearts
GrabAssist driver Joseph Low offers more than candies in his car — he helps less-mobile riders get around
Top-notch service for his passengers is a must.
So, on top of providing little extras in his car, such as candies and bottled water, 58-year-old Joseph Low also lends a helping hand whenever needed.
He and fellow GrabAssist driver Giovanni Goldhorn are among a niche group of Grab drivers who offer rides to passengers with mobility needs. They are not calling themselves saints, but they see themselves as doing their part for the community.
These private-hire car and taxi drivers undergo theory and practical training that covers topics such as safety in transfer, dementia awareness, hygiene, and emergency preparedness.
Priced slightly higher than a JustGrab ride, all GrabAssist vehicles are able to accommodate foldable wheelchairs, walkers and collapsible scooters.
Both Mr Goldhorn and Mr Low are old hands at this: they were part of the UberAssist service fleet three years ago, and immediately signed up for the GrabAssist service when they joined Grab last year.
Mr Low recalls the time he ferried an elderly couple to Singapore General Hospital. He helped the wheelchair-bound wife settle comfortably in her seat before turning his attention to her husband, who also required some assistance getting into the car.
And all that time, he was getting honked at by impatient drivers. But Mr Low didn’t let it affect him. “After arriving at the hospital, I sent the pair safely into the building. The smiles on their faces made me very happy.”
Mr Low is ever-vigilant when it comes to his passengers’ safety. “Every time I get to the pick-up point, I will first assess whether I can deliver the passengers safely to the destination.”
If he feels that they may need more assistance than he can render, he will advise them to change the way they travel, or call an ambulance.
Mr Goldhorn, 63, concurs that extra care must be exercised with GrabAssist passengers.
“I don’t mind passengers with mobility problems,” he says. “But it is a bit tougher handling passengers who have dementia. We must treat them with great care and patience.”
Mr Goldhorn recalls a pick-up at the Central Business District.
A young woman had placed a booking for an elderly man who had dementia. The two were complete strangers but the woman was trying to help the man who was lost. She had booked the ride to take the elderly man to the address printed on his identity card.
But GrabAssist remains unknown to some Grab riders who actually need the service. Mr Goldhorn often meets passengers who have special needs but choose JustGrab.
“They may not know that there is GrabAssist. There are also passengers who think there are not many GrabAssist drivers and they don’t want to wait too long,” he says.
He feels that GrabAssist is an important service that meets the needs of different passengers.
“I hope more drivers will join this service so we can shorten the waiting time for passengers.”