Is it madness to get a dog without owning a car first?
January 24, 2013 4:28 AM   Subscribe

We do not own a car. We're thinking about getting a dog. Is this doable?

My husband and I have actively resisted buying a car for a long time, both because of cost and because of the stress and responsibility that vehicle ownership involves. We live close to fairly robust public transport options which have always worked for our needs. When we've needed cars in the past for longer/more complicated journeys, we've rented, and that has worked fine. If we were to get a dog, I would imagine that we'd spend the time and money to rent every now and again to habituate him/her to riding in a vehicle.

In my preliminary research, I haven't found any vets or boarding places within easy walking distance of our house. I'm imagining an emergency scenario where we have a sick or injured dog, and the prospect of attempting to get a taxi to take a vomiting or bleeding animal anywhere seems mighty unappetizing/impossible. I'm sure there are other situations I haven't even imagined where not owning a car will make things difficult.

Are you a car-free dog owner? How do you make it work? Am I overthinking these beans?
posted by catch as catch can to Pets & Animals (17 answers total)
In an emergency scenario like you describe, do you have nearby friends you could count on to drive you and your dog to the veterinary hospital or loan you a car?
posted by carmicha at 4:38 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

The search term you want is "pet taxi + city name" which is a service found in many major urban areas. Some companies offer both emergency and non-emergency transportation, so check in advance.
posted by kitkatcathy at 4:40 AM on January 24, 2013 [5 favorites]

Nice, that was quick! Now I feel a bit silly for not even realising this was a thing. Thanks!
posted by catch as catch can at 4:52 AM on January 24, 2013

We have a dog and no car, but we do have two vet offices in our neighborhood. That was something I checked out before deciding about getting a dog, because I had the same concerns. I also thought about the weight of the dog, to be sure that I could carry her myself, if she had to be physically carried there (that hasn't happened, knock all the wood in the house).

Other than that, it's not a problem, and we take our dog with us almost everywhere. I suppose it's probably not going to be the same in western cities, but we don't even have much of a problem getting a taxi when we want to, like after we've walked miles and miles with the dog, and don't feel like hoofing it back. She sits on my husband's lap, and with the window rolled down about an inch she's perfectly happy to watch the scenery go by, and try to sniff it all. There's almost always some dog-loving cab driver who will pick us up. One guy said he wished all his fares were so well-mannered.

So, if you don't find something under "pet-taxi," just call around to all the cab services, and see if they have a special arrangement for pets at all. You can also call clinics to see if they have a pick up service, and ask around at Vet's offices for advice about that. This is something that a lot of people must deal with.
posted by taz at 4:54 AM on January 24, 2013

I live in a major city center, with a dog and without a car. We've had just about every emergency you can think of (torn paw pad, G.I. distress, etc), to ones you haven't (brown recluse spider bite, an entire bottle of glycerin hand cream...yeah) and we've done okay with cabs.
Have an emergency kit by the front door that includes paper towels, a bath mat and enough cash to pay the taxi, and you're golden!

Enjoy your new addition-life with a dog is awesome.
posted by whowearsthepants at 4:54 AM on January 24, 2013

Every taxi service in my city (Seattle) takes well behaved pets, so far. In fact, I once sent a cab to the vet to have my cat picked up solo when I was very ill. I would be really surprised at a company that forbade it.

Note also that having a vet nearby is good, but pets (mine anyway) have a tendency to have true life threatening emergencies when only the 24 hour animal ER across town is open. Maybe that place in your city would have very concrete suggestions about how people tend to get there without cars?
posted by sweltering at 5:12 AM on January 24, 2013

It's basically do-able, but one caveat: In a serious time-sensitive emergency, the time you spend looking for the emergency taxi number and waiting for them to get to you could be critical time.

I've been thinking about this a lot lately - we just had a cat with a serious medical emergency, and it happened to be a night when my partner was home with the car so we were able to get her to the vet. But if he hadn't been home, I'd have been scrambling to find the pet taxi information, while I was panicking and trying to help my cat, and that would have been a bad situation. In anticipation of needing this again someday, I've since found an emergency pet taxi that works out of a reasonably nearby location, and gotten them programmed into my phone so I can call them immediately even if I'm in a panic with a sick pet.

The non-emergency piece is hauling around big bags of pet food without a car. I mostly deal with this by having it delivered. You at least won't have the big bags of cat litter too, so you'll be a step ahead!
posted by Stacey at 5:33 AM on January 24, 2013

We also live in a city without a car and not near our vet or a kennel. Our local cab company knows me well and as long as I order a cab with "and I have my dog with me" it's never a problem. In a worst case scenario (blood, vomit, etc) you wrap the dog in a single-bed duvet and take paper towels and spray cleaner.

(Based on nothing at all, I think it helps to have an account with the cab company - they are less likely to turn you down in an emergency.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:41 AM on January 24, 2013

My carless 72 mum uses a normal local taxi when she needs to take her dog to tg he vet. Its a small town with only two drivers and ones allergic so she lets them know before hand and brings a towel for the dog to sit in down by her feet on the floor. She even did a midnight vet run with puking dog and the driver helped her carry the dog in and stayed as he was worried d about the dog. Just tip well and be prepared to pay a clean up fee if your dog pukes.
posted by wwax at 6:36 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Another tip in an emergency - if you have an injured animal and no time to wait for a cab, have someone else (bystander, whoever you're with) without the dog flag a passing one so they'll stop, and then offer some ungodly amount of money to take the dog to the vet. This has worked for me several times, either for my own dogs or for injured animals I've found in the street. Once a kind bystander saw we needed help and flagged the cab himself. Another time the cab driver was sympathetic because his own cat had once been hit by a car.

Definitely get a dog!!!!!
posted by walla at 6:43 AM on January 24, 2013

In the Boston area, there are at least two vets who do housecalls. You could also look into that for your area.
posted by spindrifter at 6:45 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, you could have a dog for its whole life without ever having an emergency! I mean, a well visit once per year for 15 years is probably 8/10 dogs (until that final year)...
posted by acm at 6:46 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Just one thing to be aware of: of course you'll have your dog on a leash in the car, but keep the other end around your wrist or otherwise firmly attached to your person. We were riding with a friend and the dog was fine, but when we parked and the driver opened his door to get out, our dog figured that was a fine time for her to jump out, too, and my husband was a bit unprepared because he was going to get out with her on his side, so he didn't have a firm hold on the leash at that moment.

She didn't make it out, thank goodness, but I had a little mini-heart attack imagining her jumping out and dashing off in a strange neighborhood many, many miles away from where we live.

Oh, and car doors and doggy tails: never the twain should meet.
posted by taz at 7:11 AM on January 24, 2013

Here in NYC I've seen people pulling their dogs in wagons.
posted by brujita at 8:39 AM on January 24, 2013

If you're near Zipcars (or maybe other car-sharing services?) you can take a dog in the car so long as it's in a crate.
posted by mskyle at 8:46 AM on January 24, 2013

I would recommend an Amazon Prime membership - I buy my dog food on Amazon (they have a good variety including fancy schmancy Blue Buffalo, etc), as well as the dog poop bags. I get the food online because it's freakin heavy and there isn't a pet store near by. I get the poop bags online because they're way cheaper.
posted by radioamy at 9:05 AM on January 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

Two thoughts: Do you bike? There are MANY dog trailers or ways to transport dogs with bikes. Depending on your vet distance, that might be a reasonable option.

Also if you have neighbors with dogs, often you can work out a mutually beneficial "I'll dog-sit when you're gone if you'll dog-sit when I'm gone", mid-day walks, or things like that and they'll totally understand emergency vet trips if you discuss in advance. I know (if I had a car >_>) if my neighbor came to me with sick/injured dog, I would ABSOLUTELY help.
posted by HermitDog at 11:29 AM on January 24, 2013

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