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No dogs in Innsbruck taxis: ‘It has nothing to do with faith’

The fact that many taxis in the Austrian city do not transport dogs is not about religion, but for "legal and security reasons", says an Innsbruck taxi driver.

Published: August 19, 2019, 1:21 pm

    Innsbruck

    But many suspect that religion is in fact the real reason and this question is currently being discussed in Tyrol. The latest incident, as reported, is the case of an Innsbruck woman, who wanted to take her dog (in a transport box) to the airport – and had problems to pre-order a taxi.

    The reasoning in the radio center – which was confirmed by the directors on request: Most drivers have a migrant background – and they refuse for reasons of faith to transport dogs, as they are considered in Islam as “impure”.

    Gabriele Jandrasits was in fact told directly that “most drivers would refuse to take dogs for reasons of faith”. Local laws require that drivers accept guide dogs for the blind, although many of the drivers simply ignore this law.

    The regional daily, the Tiroler Tageszeitung reported on how the blind former board member of the Association for the Blind ordered a taxi to drop her off at Innsbruck airport.

    The radio centre apologised later. “We try to make it clear to the drivers again and again that this is not the case for us and that these trips have to be carried out exactly like any other job. Unfortunately, at the moment we are not in a position to solve this problem satisfactorily, ” said one, adding that drivers had to be told “again and again” about the rules.

    According to the Tiroler Tageszeitung, 80 percent of drivers now have a migrant background.

    One reason cited is a security issue: “Many passengers order a taxi, without mentioning that they bring a dog. And that they have a transport box with them is extremely rare. In addition, many taxis are sedans. But if someone comes with a transport box, then the car must be a station wagon, so that the box can be securely fastened in the trunk,” says a driver.

    “Because what happens if the taxi is forced to stop and the animal is injured?” For the same reason, it is unacceptable for passengers to take the dog in their laps, he claimed.

    Gabriel Klammer of the Tyrolean Economic Chamber, transport division, contradicted this notion outright that there are some legal issues around transporting animals. Legally, the matter is absolutely clear, he said. “Animals are viewed as things.” Most dogs are “safe to transport in the footwell” – which of course is also possible in sedan vehicles.

    Dogs may not always be accommodated on the seat, out of consideration for the next passengers. Also, if a dog is overly dirty, it could of course be refused.

    Regarding a possible religious aspect, the opinion of the Innsbruck taxi driver is shared by the Islamic Religious Community in Austria (IGGÖ): “The problem with pets in taxis is not a religious but a hygienic or safety-related one. Muslim as well as non-Muslim taxi drivers tell us about the tedious cleaning, for example, dogs of passengers hair.”

    According to IGGÖ spokesman Rusen Timur Aksak, “we recommend that Muslims, when it comes to work and religion, seek an open discussion with the employer, since this has been a proven and successful practice for us in Austria for decades and usually leads to good, reasonable compromises”.

    But Aksak would not say what the compromise would be regarding the transport of dogs.

    In Britain, a taxi driver who refused to take a guide dog because of religion was fined for breaching equality laws in 2017.

    Blind Charles Bloch was denied use of a taxi for the second time the previous year. The Muslim driver was filmed telling Bloch that “for me, it’s about my religion”.

    When Charles explained the legal requirement, the driver Kassim simply drove away. After his fine at Leicester Magistrates’ Court, Kassim claimed he was “confused” at the time.

    The BBC reported what he had said: “I was confused because I was scared of the dog and at the time I did not know the difference between the guide dog and the normal dog.”

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