It’s a Fare Deal for Fido

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By Ralph R. Ortegas

PET CABBIES OFFER QUICK PICK-’EM-UP

Vicki Ungar gave up yelling, “Hey, taxi!” to go across town with Molly, her lovable cocker spaniel.”Ten taxis will pass you before one will stop. I guess most don’t like people with animals,” said Ungar, a pet hospital manager who travels to work with her pooch daily.

David Lang, owner of Pet Chauffer, picks up another fare. Ungar gets Molly there using Pet Chauffeur, one of the city’s pet-transportation companies that allow humans along for the ride. Animal lovers who travel with sizable dogs, as well as iguanas, ferrets and other exotic critters, have turned to such companies after being banned from most other modes of public transport.
Cabbies take the most heat for passing on pets, objecting because of their size and even for religious and cultural reasons. Many drivers can’t handle fur. “I’m highly allergic to cats, I choke,” said Fernando Mateo, president of the 30,000-member New York Federation of Taxi Drivers, representing livery cabs. But the biggest objection comes from the potential backseat cleanup.

“Cab drivers don’t like to stop for pets because they fear they might do their business in the car,” said David Lang, owner of the Long Island City-based Pet Chauffeur. Potty accidents are no problem for Lang, whose five-minivan fleet comes prepared for cleanups. Lang charges varying rates around town, starting at $25 for 1 to 40 blocks. He also will go out of state. Locally, owners travel free and crates are not usually required.

Ungar calls ahead to schedule her 15-minute ride to work at the Park East Animal Hospital in midtown. Drivers usually arrive early, she said, and often will tune into Molly’s favorite jazz and classical stations for the ride. Dog and owner make at least 10 trips a week, pricey for Ungar since she started taking Molly to work in January. She declined to discuss how much she pays, but explained that 12-year-old Molly has cancer. “She’s very special, and a great companion,” said Ungar, who was recently divorced. “I’ll really do anything for my dog.”
Pet movers make trips to the vet, hospital, groomers, doggie day care, airports and New York’s animal havens.

“I take a customer three times a week from Tribeca to Central Park with her giant, beautiful German shepherd, Harley!” said Larry Reilly, owner of the Manhattan-based Pet Taxi. Reilly also offers tempting excursions to grassy country settings near mountains and lakes, and provides weekend service to the Hamptons. “Reunite yourself and your dog with Mother Nature,” he urges on his Web site, “Meet other pet owners who want to give their pets a better life.”
In 1999, Gail Pierangelino, a former deli owner and groomer from Manhattan, started a one-woman pet-travel business called Petex. Ever since, she has found customers who wouldn’t travel any other way with their animals. “They have no worries,” said Pierangelino, 47. “They call me up, and I’m there. It’s like having a private car for you and your animal.”