Leamington woman with assistance dog claims she was refused travel by Uber twice in 24 hours

A Leamington woman who needs an assistance dog has claimed she was refused travel by Uber twice in 24 hours due to drivers not wanting to take the dog.

Thursday, 27th December 2018, 9:09 am
Updated Thursday, 10th January 2019, 9:57 am
Ruby Welsford with her assistance dog Betsy

Ruby Welsford, 27, has several disabilities, including dyspraxia, cerebral palsy, sensory processing disorder and a hand tremor. Her disabilities can sometimes cause her brain to become overloaded, which can 'shut down' her body.

She has a six-year-old labrador collie cross, called Betsy, to help her when this happens.

Ruby often wears a bright lead indicating she is an assistance dog

Betsy provides 'deep pressure' by using her body weight to push onto Ruby when her body shuts down. This produces a calming effect and reduces the severity of the shutdown.

Ruby said: "When we go in a car she just sits down in the footwell, and she puts her feet on me. It does not require assistance from the driver at all. She's very used to travelling."

On Tuesday December 18, Ruby called an Uber to take her and Betsy to Sainsbury's Local in Radford Road.

When the driver arrived and saw Betsy, Ruby said he refused to let them travel.

Ruby, a dog trainer, taught Ruby to be an assistance dog herself

After Ruby explained the laws around assistance dogs, she eventually persuaded the driver to take them.

But less than 24 hours later on Wednesday December 19, she claimed the same problem happened again when she called an Uber to take her and Betsy to TK Maxx in Leamington Shopping Park.

Ruby said she was unable to persuade the second driver, who drove off without taking them.

Ruby added: "I'm used to being refused [by Uber]. But the fact it's happened twice in 24 hours is ridiculous.

"I'm the least confrontational person ever, but when it happened the second time the red mist descended."

Ruby, a dog trainer who taught Betsy to be an assistance dog herself, is now trying to get Uber to update its app to stop incidents like this from happening.

She suggested Uber should allow drivers to anonymously upload any council-issued medical exemption certificates, which could preclude them from taking dogs, to their profiles.

And customers with assistance dogs could also inform Uber through their profiles so its software would always send an appropriate driver and vehicle to pick them up.

She added: "I'm a big believer in not just moaning, but trying to find solutions as well.

"Uber is a big company, and they've got some complex technology behind their app. I don't think it's impossible for them to make some little changes."

An Uber spokesman said: “Licensed private-hire drivers must carry service animals in their vehicle and we remind all drivers of this legal obligation before they start using the Uber app.

"Any driver who is found to have refused to take a service animal will permanently lose access to the Uber app and risks having their private hire licence taken away.”