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How to get a service dog in Canada

Service dogs are a necessity for some Canadians, but they can be difficult to afford. Here are 5 ways to finance a service dog.

Getting a service dog can help make life with a disability more manageable. Service dogs help Canadians in many ways, from guiding people who are blind, assisting people who are deaf or hard or hearing, to retrieving objects or opening and closing doors for people who are wheelchair bound. They can genuinely make everyday life more manageable.

But service dogs often come with a steep price: between the costs of adoption, training and regular pet care, you may not be able to cover the ongoing expenses of a service dog out-of-pocket. If you’re thinking of adopting a service dog for yourself or for your family, here’s a look at how to get a service dog in Canada.

How much is a service dog?

You may be asking, how much does a service dog cost in Canada? The answer will vary, with estimates of anywhere between $3,000 up to $50,000.

The exact cost will depend on the training the dog receives, the breed of dog you’ve selected, and the organization you’re working with to adopt your dog. Keep in mind that’s just the initial cost. Owners often spend between $500 and $10,000 on their service dog per year. These ongoing costs include things like food, toys and vet visits.

It’s worth noting there are several non-profit organizations that connect people with disabilities with a service dog that’s fully trained to perfectly suit their needs, at no cost.

5 ways to pay for a service dog

1. Apply for a service dog via a charity.

Are service dogs free in Canada? With some organizations, they are. The best way to dramatically reduce the costs of acquiring a service dog for you or your family member is to apply for a fully trained service dog from a not-for-profit organization that’s dedicated to training service dogs to help Canadians with specific disabilities.

You’ll need to meet specific criteria to qualify for a service dog, but if you do, these organizations are a great start to match you with a dog at no charge:

The Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides. Established in 1985, the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides has already paired over 3,000 Canadians with a service dog, completely free of charge. The foundation says each service dog costs approximately $35,000 to breed, train and place with a family. It doesn’t receive any government funding, but relies solely on fundraising events, including its annual Walk for Dog Guides, and donations from service clubs, corporations and Canadians across the country.

The Lions Foundation has 7 dog training programs, including:

  • Vision (for people who are blind or visually impaired)
  • Hearing (for people who are deaf or hard of hearing)
  • Autism assistance (for children who have autism spectrum disorder),
  • Service (for people who have a physical or medical disability)
  • Seizure response (for people who have epilepsy)
  • Diabetic alert (for people who have diabetes with hypoglycemic unawareness)
  • Facility support (for professional agencies assisting individuals in traumatic situations)

Mira. Founded in Sainte-Madeleine, Quebec, Mira has paired 1,350 people with disabilities with a fully-trained guide dog, at no cost. It pegs the cost of breeding, training and matching a service dog at $30,000. It trains and offers free guide dogs and assistance dogs to people living with visual and motor impairments as well as to young people with autism spectrum disorder.

Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind. Canadians who are registered as legally blind can apply for a service dog via Canadian Guide Dogs for the Blind, which was founded in 1984. By 2018, the not-for-profit organization’s 850th guide dog team graduated and paired with Canadians who need their assistance.

B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs. Providing fully trained service dogs at no cost to West Coast Canadians, B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs says it costs up to $35,000 and up to 2 years to produce each service dog. They provide guide dogs, autism service dogs, and PTSD service dogs to qualified Canadians who need them most.

Kingston 4 Paws Service Dogs. If you’re looking for service dogs in Ontario, this Kingston-based organization provides fully trained dogs to help people with autism or PTSD. They also train seizure response service dogs and mobility service dogs.

While these organizations provide people with disabilities with a fully trained dog that matches their needs, you’re then responsible for all expenses for the dog while it’s in your care, including food, housing and veterinary expenses.

2. Service dog grants in Canada.

Whether it’s a charity or government grant, free cash is up for grabs to eligible Canadians to help them care for their service dog. It’s worth doing your homework to check for local and provincial service dog grants in Canada that provide funds to help people with disabilities afford to take care of their service dog. A key example is the B.C. government’s Guide Dog and Service Dog Supplement, which provides $95 per calendar month. The Canadian Kennel Club Foundation also has a CKCF Pawsitivity Grant, which provides funding starting at $2,500 up to $10,000 to awardees to assist with service dog training.

3. Crowdfunding.

Reach out to your social networks to raise money for your service dog by creating a fundraising campaign on sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe. Tell your story to your community about how your service dog has enriched your life, and helps you in your day-to-day activities. B.C. and Alberta Guide Dogs suggests dog owners can organize a fundraising event, such as a block party, barbecue, garage sale, bake sale, or silent auction. You can even organize corporate events at work, such as a staff lunch. These funds can go a long way towards paying for your monthly expenses to take care of Fido.

4. Build up your savings.

Though not the easiest option depending on your cash flow, having extra savings can make purchasing a service dog much more manageable.

5. Take out a personal loan.

If the options listed above aren’t viable or you still need more cash, you could take out a personal loan of up to $50,000 to obtain a service dog. If you have assets, such as home equity or a car, you can apply for a secured loan, providing collateral, to snag a lower interest rate too.

Who is most likely to be researching how to get a service dog?

Finder data suggests that women aged 25-34 are most likely to be researching this topic.

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Source: Finder sample of 1,954 visitors using demographics data from Google Analytics

Compare loans to finance a service dog

1 - 8 of 8
Name Product Ratings APR Range Loan Amount Loan Term Broker Compliance Requirements
Spring Financial Personal Loan
Finder Score:
Customer Survey:
10.8% - 46.99%
$500 - $35,000
6 - 60 months
Requirements: min. income $2,000/month, 3+ months employed, min. credit score 550
Loans Canada Personal Loan
Finder Score:
Customer Survey:
6.99% - 46.96%
$300 - $50,000
3 - 60 months
Loans Canada is a loan search platform with access to multiple lenders. Applicants will be matched with a suitable lender based on credit history and borrowing requirements.
Requirements: min. credit score 300
LoanConnect Personal Loan
Finder Score:
Customer Survey:
8.99% - 46.96%
$500 - $50,000
3 - 120 months
LoanConnect is a loan search platform with access to multiple lenders. Applicants will be matched with a suitable lender based on credit history and borrowing requirements.
Requirements: min. credit score 300
easyfinancial Personal Loan
Finder Score:
Customer Survey:
9.99% - 46.96%
$500 - $100,000
9 - 120 months
Requirements: min. income $1,200/month
Mogo Personal Loan
Finder Score:
Customer Survey:
9.90% - 46.96%
$500 - $35,000
6 - 60 months
Requirements: min. income $35,000/year, min. credit score 600
Fig Personal Loans
Finder Score:
12.99% - 31.99%
$2,000 - $30,000
24 - 60 months
Requirements: min. income $5,000/month, 6+ months employed, min. credit score 700
SkyCap Financial Personal Loan
Finder Score:
Customer Survey:
12.99% - 39.99%
$500 - $10,000
9 - 36 months
Requirements: min. income $1,666.67/month, full time employment/pension, min. credit score 575, no bankruptcy
goPeer Personal Loan
Finder Score:
8.99% - 34.99%
$1,000 - $35,000
36 or 60 months
Requirements: recommended income $35,000/year, min. credit score 600, min. 5-year credit history.

Why do service dogs cost so much?

Service dogs cost so much because they require extensive training and care during the first few months of their lives. Your total cost typically combines the following costs:

  • Adoption costs
  • Trainer’s fees
  • Spaying or neutering
  • Microchipping fees
  • Vaccinations
  • Regular checkups

To cut down on the immediate cost, you can train the dog yourself or with the help of a certified trainer. In Canada, dog owners can sign up for private, group or even virtual dog training classes. Some dog owners even train their dog on their own or with a mix of help from various resources, such as books or one-on-one training. This can significantly reduce the costs in the short-term, but it can take much longer to train the dog and can get expensive over time.

If you’re curious about dog training organizations in your province, the Canadian Association of Guide and Assistance Dog Schools (CAGADS) has a full list of programs across the country.

Example: Samantha needs to cover vet bills

Samantha is relocating to northern Ontario. Her new service dog Spot needs three vaccinations – and she wants to get him neutered as well. She will also need to pick up two different medications to see him through mosquito season. She’s been told her total bill will come to $1,150.00. The cost to neuter her dog will be $250.00, the two medications come in at $350.00 and the vaccinations come in at $400.00 – and then she will have to pay tax.

Samantha doesn’t have this kind of money on hand right now – her big move up north has dwindled her savings down. However, since she will start her new job within a couple of weeks, she decides to take out a loan to cover the costs. Heading online, she compares both payday loans and personal loans. Since she has a decent credit score, she settles on a personal loan for $1,200.00, which will be repaid over 6 months.

Cost of vet bills$1,150.00
Loan typePersonal loan
Loan amount$1,200.00
Interest rate (APR)10.00%
Loan term6 months
Additional feesOrigination fee of 3% ($36.00)
Monthly payment$205.87
Total loan cost$1,271.24

*The information in this example, including rates, fees and terms, is provided as a representative transaction. The actual cost of the product may vary depending on the retailer, the product specs and other factors.

How much does it cost to take care of a service dog?

While your service dog may help you in many ways throughout the day, you’re on the hook for all of his expenses, from all his meals to his bedding, leash, toys and other personal items.

As you and your dog settle into a routine at home, you’ll get acquainted with the monthly expenses you’ll need to include in your budget for keeping Fido happy and healthy. Here’s a look at the monthly costs of owning a dog:

Type of expenseMonthly cost
Food and treats$30 to $72
Chew toys$10
Pet insurance$78
Total monthly costs$158 to $200
Total monthly costs with a dog walker, if needed, at $200/month$358 to $400

Are service dogs covered by Public Health or private health insurance providers?

Not usually. However, it may be possible to find a private insurance provider who is willing to cover some expenses such as emergency vet bills. Still, this means getting a service animal is usually an out-of-pocket expense for a person with disabilities.

How can I pay for pet care if my service dog gets sick or injured?

Beyond the normal costs of maintaining a dog, there are times when your companion will need additional medical care.

Pet insurance.

You can purchase private pet insurance to cover your dog’s emergency vet bills. Pet insurance policies typically cover the following:

  • Accident only: This policy will cover vet expenses in case your pet has an accident. The monthly premium ranges from about $15 to $30.
  • Accident and illness: This policy covers vet expenses for accidents and illnesses. The monthly premium will usually range from $30 to $60.
  • Comprehensive coverage: This policy covers vet costs for accidents and illnesses. In addition, it covers routine vaccinations and worming treatments. The premium typically ranges from $60 to $80 per month.

Nonprofit funding.

Some nonprofits can also help if you find yourself unable to pay for vet bills. Contact one to see if there are any programs you may qualify for.

Unsecured personal loans.

These give you the option of financing without needing to provide collateral as security. Since there is no security involved, the interest rates for these loans tend to be higher than their secured counterparts. Compare the terms offered by various lenders before selecting the most favourable one.

Credit cards.

If you have a credit card, you could consider putting some of the costs, both upfront and ongoing, on this card if you don’t have the money at hand. If you don’t plan on paying off your total balance straight away, a lower interest card might be a better option for you, as it won’t see your interest charges build as quickly as they would on a credit card with a higher rate.

Bottom line

For some Canadians, a service dog may be a necessity but the cost can make them inaccessible. However, if you want to know how to get a service dog in Canada, there are multiple options available. Connect with local, provincial or national not-for-profit organizations dedicated to helping people with disabilities gain access to fully trained service dogs. After that, your main financial responsibility will be to take care of your service dog with proper meals and a warm home. There are also organizations that can help you find respected certification programs and trainers.

If you do choose to take out a personal loan, compare your options to make sure you’re getting a good deal that suits your budget.

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