Service dogs are a necessity for many, but they can be difficult for the average person to afford.
How much does a service dog and its training cost?
The cost of a service dog will depend on the training it receives and the breed of dog you’ve selected, but the average ranges from $15,000 to $30,000, although the amount can reach as high as $50,000. This is because the dog requires extensive training and care during the first few months of its life.
You may also choose to train the dog yourself or with the help of a certified trainer. This can significantly reduce the costs, but it will take longer. Your total cost combines the adoption cost of the puppy, the trainer’s fees and the regular expenses that come with dogs — spaying/neutering, vaccinations and regular health checkups. Many owners cite that they pay $5,000 to $10,000.
5 options to pay for a service dog
- Find a nonprofit. A number of nonprofits help people with disabilities obtain an assistance dog for little or no money, but the waiting lists can be quite long.
- 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.
- Build up your savings. Though not the always easiest depending on your cash flow, having extra savings can make purchasing a service dog easier.
- 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.
- Find a grant. 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.
Wait lists for grantsSome 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.
Browse your personal loan options
Are service dogs covered by health insurance providers?
Not usually. If you’re thinking of getting a service dog and are hoping to use your insurance, think again. Major insurance providers typically don’t cover the costs of service dogs, but you may find a smaller provider that offers some coverage. This means getting a service animal is usually an out-of-pocket expense for a person with disabilities. A flexible spending account (FSA) attached to your insurance policy can be used to buy a service dog if you get a letter of medical necessity (LMN). But you’ll still need to have the money upfront — this method saves you money on your taxes.
However, if your service dog is injured or sick, its medical care can be paid through out of an health savings account (HSA). You could also purchase a pet insurance policy to cover your dog against illness and injury.
How can I pay for pet care if my service dog gets sick or injured?
Beyond the normal costs of maintaining a dog, which ranges between $500 to $1,000 a year, there are times when your companion will need additional medical care. 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 gross income on medical expenses for your service animal, you can file to have that money deducted on your taxes.
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.
Finally, 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.
Which breeds are best for service dogs?
Three common types of assistance dog are the Labrador retriever, golden retriever and German shepherd.
However, 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.
Many types of dog are suitable for service work, though certain breeds are better for certain jobs. 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. On the other hand, a Hearing Dog or one that scents conditions like epilepsy or low blood sugar, are generally smaller so they can more easily fit in public spaces where a 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.
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 here.