5 options to cover the costs of a service dog | finder.com
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How to cover the costs of a service dog

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Service dogs are sometimes a necessity, but they can be difficult to afford.

Life with a disability creates hurdles that can be hard to get over, a service dog can help to make everyday life more manageable. With the costs of adoption, training and regular pet care, you may find yourself needing financing to get your service dog.
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    How much does a service dog and its training cost?

    Service dogs typically cost from $15,000 to $30,000, though it depends on the training it receives and the breed of dog you’ve selected. Service dogs can get as expensive as $50,000. If you don’t have that kind of money lying around you might need financing to help cover the cost.

    And that’s just the initial costs. Owners often spend between $500 and $10,000 on their service dog per year.

    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 combines the following costs:

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

    To cut down on the immediate cost, you can train the dog yourself or with the help of a certified trainer. This can significantly reduce the costs in the short-term, but it takes longer and can get expensive over time.

    4 ways to pay for a service dog

    1. Nonprofit grants. A number of organizations, including Assistance Dogs International and Service Dogs for America, help people with disabilities find service dogs for little or no cost.
    2. 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.
    3. Build up your savings. Though not the always easiest depending on your cash flow, having extra savings can make purchasing a service dog easier.
    4. Take out a personal loan. If financial assistance from a nonprofit isn’t available, you could take out a personal loan up to $50,000 to obtain a service dog.

    Wait lists for grants

    Some organizations claim to never turn someone in need away, but this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed get a dog immediately. Most nonprofits say their waiting lists are long, so you may have to wait many years for a service dog for your disability.

    Each nonprofit has its own program and eligibility criteria, so do your research and submit applications as soon as possible to put yourself on the list.

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    Are service dogs covered by health insurance providers?

    Not usually. Major insurance providers typically don’t cover the costs of service dogs. However, some smaller providers may offer partial coverage. Still, this means getting a service animal is usually an out-of-pocket expense for a person with disabilities.

    Flexible spending accounts

    You can use a flexible spending account (FSA) attached to your insurance policy to buy a service dog if you get a letter of medical necessity (LMN) from your doctor.

    An FSA allows you to use your salary before taxes, making it less expensive than paying out of pocket. But you’ll still need to have that pre-tax money.

    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. While your personal insurance might not cover it, there are a few ways you can get assistance.

    Health savings accounts

    Because your assistance dog isn’t a pet and is performing a medically-required service, their medical bills can be covered by your health savings account (HSA). If you use your HSA, you won’t be taxed for any medical expenses for your pet.

    If you spend over 7.5% of your income before taxes on medical expenses for your service animal, you can file to have that money deducted on your taxes. But you’ll also need an LMN from your doctor.

    Pet insurance

    You could also buy a pet insurance policy to cover your dog against illness and injury. pet insurance is always an option if you have the extra monthly income. Many plans cover service dogs, and you could find plenty of insurers with premiums various budgets.

    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.

    Which breeds are best for service dogs?

    The best breed for your service dog depends on your needs. The three most common types of assistance dog are:

    • Labrador retriever
    • Golden retriever
    • German shepherd

    However, many types of dog are suitable for service work and certain breeds are better for certain jobs.

    When to go for a big dog

    For people who need stability in the case of a physical limitation, a Labrador retriever or German shepherd is considered helpful in providing support when their handler is struggling to maneuver in certain spaces.

    When to go for a medium or small dog

    Medium-sized breeds like poodles and collies are often used for people whose disabilities don’t require the strength and size of these larger breeds.

    If you need a Hearing Dog or one that scents conditions like epilepsy or low blood sugar, a smaller dog might be more suitable. They can easily fit in public spaces where a large dog may seem inappropriate, like at a restaurant or on a bus.

    When searching for the right dog breed, it’s important to contact trainers and disability advocates. These resources will be able to lead you to the appropriate dog for your needs.

    Lab service dog with man in wheelchair
    Blind man with retriever service dog
    German shepherd service dog with security worker

    Bottom line

    At the end of the day, a service dog is a necessity for many people living with disabilities. Assistance Dogs International has a respected certification program and list of trainers.

    While it doesn’t provide service dogs to those in need, it can direct people with disabilities to a program that can. Though service dogs can be expensive, you have options to handle the cost of obtaining a dog and paying for it over the course of its life. If you do choose to take out a personal loan, compare your options.

    Frequently asked questions

    Image source: Shutterstock

    Kellye Guinan

    Kellye Guinan is a writer and editor with finder.com and has years of experience in academic writing and research. Between her passion for books and her love of language, she works on creating stories and volunteering her time on worthy causes. She lives in the woods and likes to find new bug friends in between reading just a little too much nonfiction.

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