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A service dog can make life with a disability much more manageable. But between finding the right dog and training it, the costs can quickly add up. Fortunately, there are quite a few grants and financing options that may be able to help.
A service dog typically costs between $15,000 and $30,000 to adopt and train, according to the nonprofit Service Dog Certifications. But it depends on the training it receives and the breed of dog you’ve selected. In some cases a service dog can be as expensive as $50,000.
After you get a service dog, you’ll also have to consider annual expenses like vet visits, food and grooming.
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Service dogs require extensive training during the first few months of their lives. And while every dog is different, the final price is generally a combination of adoption fees, specialized training and general pet care.
Adoption can cost $500 to $1,500 or more, according to Pet MD. It depends largely on the following factors:
You can expect to pay anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000 to train your dog, according to Puppy In Training, a guide to the ins and outs of raising a service dog. If you adopt a dog that’s already trained, this may be wrapped into the adoption costs.
To cut down on the immediate expense, you can train the dog yourself or with the help of a certified trainer. It can significantly reduce the cost in the short term, but it may take longer to fully equip your dog with the skills it needs to help you.
You might spend may spend between $1,500 to $2,000 over the first year, according to the ASPCA. This includes the initial medical costs listed above and ongoing expenses like food, grooming and tags.
This doesn’t cover a post-adoption wellness visit or your dog’s yearly exam — you’ll need to add these to your adoption budget as well.
|Cost||Percent of Total Costs|
|Adoption||$500 to $1,500 or more||4.17%|
|Training||$10,000 to $50,000||83.33%|
|General Care||$1,500 to $2,000||12.50%|
When you’re ready to buy a service dog, here are five financing options to consider:
Some organizations claim to never turn someone in need away, but many nonprofits have that are several years long to get a service dog. In addition, each organization has its own program and eligibility criteria. Double-check that you qualify before filling out the applications — and try to get them in as soon as possible to secure a spot on the list.
Many of these programs offer service dogs at no charge to the recipient. But to be eligible, you may need to meet specific criteria or live close to the organization for continued training and support.
|Brigadoon Service Dogs||Provides service dogs to veterans, adults and children with physical, developmental and behavioral disabilities||Bellingham, Washington|
|The Service Dog Project (SDP)||Works exclusively with Great Danes to help those with mobility and balance issues||Ipswich, Massachusetts|
|Paws with a Cause||Provides custom-trained assistance dogs and works to increase the visibility of service dogs within the community||Wayland, Michigan|
|Canine Companions for Independence||Trains dogs to help people living with disabilities as well as facilitators working in a healthcare, visitation or educational setting||Training centers located throughout the US|
|NEADS||Provides dogs that offer assistance and companionship to adults and children with physical and developmental disabilities||Princeton, Massachusetts|
|Guide Dogs of America||Offers guide dogs to those who are blind or visually impaired to help increase independence and mobility||Sylmar, California|
|Can Do Canines||Provides service dogs to help improve the quality of life for individuals living with disabilities||New Hope, Minnesota|
|Retrieving Freedom, Inc.||Trains dogs to work with veterans living with PTSD and other service-related injuries, as well as children with autism||Facilities located in Iowa, Missouri and Mississippi|
Look for Assistance Dogs International (ADI) accreditation. ADI sets the industry standards for organizations and individuals who train dogs to help people with disabilities. These standards cover the proper selection, training and care of service dogs, as well as standards for administration and the selection of staff and volunteers.
Many organizations that raise and train service dogs offer financial assistance for those who aren’t able to pay the full price. However, these are typically geared toward individuals with specific disabilities and backgrounds. For instance, both Smoky Mountain Service Dogs and Mutts with a Mission offer service dogs and financial assistance to veterans.
To find a program that offers financial assistance, you may want to speak with your local disability advocates, the VA or other organizations. They may be able to guide you to local resources that help reduce the cost of training your dog.
Veterinarians may offer discounts for service dogs, and you may be able to claim the cost of purchasing, training and caring for your dog on your taxes. While this isn’t direct financial assistance, it can go a long way in reducing the overall price of a service dog.
Not usually. Major insurance providers typically don’t cover the price of a service dog or its training, but some smaller providers may offer partial coverage. Still, this means getting a service animal is usually a pricey out-of-pocket expense — which is why finding a nonprofit can go a long way in helping you stay out of debt.
Unfortunately, neither Medicaid nor Medicare cover the costs of obtaining or caring for a service dog. However, you can use your SSI or SSDI income to pay for your animal.
If you’ve recently received disability payments, you may also be able to use your back benefits to purchase a service dog or pay for its training. You can learn more about your options by reaching out to a disability attorney or advocate.
Not fully, but some of the costs that come with owning a service dog may be covered by your Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. To take advantage of this opportunity, schedule a meeting with a mental health provider to begin the application process. If approved, the VA provides comprehensive coverage for your dog’s health and wellness as well as any prescription medication or veterinary care your dog may require.
It can take between one and two years to train a service dog if you decide to adopt and train yourself. But if you need a service dog now, you can adopt one that has already been trained. This might cost you more upfront, but you’ll only have to account for the time it takes to adopt and finance your service dog.
But don’t underestimate the application process can also be intensive. Filling out the initial application might take a few minutes or a few hours. But reputable organizations will often conduct several rounds of interviews before allowing you to adopt.
In addition to the cost of adopting and training a dog, you will need to plan for its maintenance. Fortunately, unless your dog is prone to health issues or is injured, caring for a service dog won’t cost more than any other dog.
To plan for these expenses, make an annual budget for the most common costs. These include:
Over the course of your dog’s lifetime, you can expect to spend between $14,000 to $16,000 according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). It breaks the cost down to between $700 to $1,000 a year for vet visits and between around $200 to $2,500 a year for grooming, food, toys and treats. CNBC places the lifetime cost much higher at $27,000 to $42,000, but this largely depends on the breed of your animal.
|Food||$120 to $900|
|Vet visits||$700 to $1,500|
|Medication||$100 to $500|
|Grooming||$25 to $1,400|
|Toys, treats and other supplies||$35 to $250|
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.
The best breed for your service dog depends on your needs. The three most common types of assistance dog are:
However, many types of dog are suitable for service work and certain breeds are better for certain jobs. 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.
For people who need stability for a physical limitation, a Labrador retriever or German shepherd is considered helpful in providing support when you are struggling to maneuver in certain spaces.
Medium-sized breeds like poodles and collies are often used for people whose disabilities who 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.
Yes, you may be able to use a miniature horse as a service animal. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was revised in 2010 to allow miniature horses individually trained to perform a service or task for individuals with a disability to be service animals.
In general, miniature horses are typically trained to work as guide animals for people with visual impairments. While they can also be trained to assist with mobility issues, it isn’t common. This can make finding a breeder and training program difficult or expensive. And because this is a relatively new concept, there’s not much information available.
You can check out the costs of owning a miniature horse on the American Miniature Horse Association (AHMA) website.
A service dog may be a necessity, but the cost can make them inaccessible. Assistance Dogs International has a respected certification program and list of trainers that can help make your dog more affordable. While it doesn’t provide service dogs to those in need, it can direct people with disabilities to a program that can. Other resources may also be appropriate when you need to handle such a large cost.
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.
Image source: Shutterstock
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