Pets catch a taxi ride with Paul
It was never easy for a pet to catch a lift, but the pandemic has made it even harder.
Taxi drivers already have extra sanitising to do to meet Covid-19 regulations, and many do not want to add cleaning up after an animal to their chores.
That spells good news for Paul Hollis, who has been running a taxi service specifically for pets for the last six years. The service is a branch of his business Professional Animal Waste Disposal Service (PAWS).
“Apparently a lot of taxis say no to animals,” he said. “That works out well for me. When people find out I transport pets they are often surprised that there is such a service. But they are receptive to it.”
A lot of his clients and their owners are headed to or from the airport or the vet’s office.
“For some reason I have a lot of St David’s clients who take their pets to Ettrick Animal Hospital in Warwick,” he said. “That is quite a long drive.”
And because of Covid-19 regulations, his human customers have to remain in the car while the vet takes the pet inside for treatment.
“I try to make the pet and client as comfortable as possible,” he said. “The van has air conditioning in different sections so I can air-condition the front and the rear now. I have a portable ramp for older dogs.”
Sometimes he transports the pet without the owner. On occasion, he has found himself transporting pets on a one-way journey to the vet’s office.
“I have had to comfort clients on the loss of their pet,” he said. “I have had to hold a dog while it was put to sleep. That is the sad part of the job.”
His canine passengers are usually well behaved.
“I have never had a problem,” he said. “The cats sometimes miaow on the way. Normally, when I pick cats up, they are already in a cage. I have one client with two very expensive cats and she has them in their own little custom pouches. I go up to Somerset and pick them up. I live right next to CedarTree Vets on Tee Street in Devonshire. I drop them off at CedarTree in the morning, and she picks them up in the evening.”
What he loves about it is meeting nice people. He can relate to dog lovers because he has a beloved Jack Russell terrier called Jackson.
He started PAWS in 2003. At that time, he had an English bull dog who seemed to develop worm infections every other month.
“The vet asked if there was still dog waste around the premises,” Mr Hollis said. “He said if your dog has worms and you do not dispose of the dog waste, the worms lay eggs, and the dogs inhale the larvae.”
Mr Hollis realised there was a market for a pet waste disposal business.
“I was up late one night and there was an advert for a pooper scooper,” he said. “Then the Discovery Channel television show Dirty Jobs came on, and a pooper scooper service came on. I thought I like dogs, it would be a nice thing to do.”
But the community viewed his initial efforts with some incredulity. When he went before the Transport Control Department vehicle committee to get a van permit for his business, he was met with outright guffaws.
“They erupted in laughter,” Mr Hollis said. “It was the most unprofessional thing I have seen in my life. But I waited, and when the uproar calmed down, I had my business plan in front of me. I told them that there were over 3,000 registered dogs in Bermuda. If I got 5 per cent of that I could start throwing numbers in it. Slowly the laughter died.”
He got his van licence.
Now he visits clients’ yards once a week to collect dog waste. He charges $50 per dog, per week.
“I provide the client with a five-gallon bucket with a trash bag and a lid,” he said. “If they want to keep their yard tidy in between visits they can just put it in there. I take the poop and dispose of it at Tynes Bay. It was incentivised by Tynes Bay management some time back. They were having a hard time with people putting their dog waste in the trash. They had incidences where it exploded on the workers.”
But it is not always an easy job. He has been bitten and scratched several times.
And he has seen a lot of highs and lows in the business. One of the lows came in 2007 when many expatriate workers left the island. He lost a lot of clients at that time.
He works full-time as a firefighter and runs PAWS in his spare time.
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