A service dog is an animal that is trained to provide assistance to those suffering from mental, physical, or intellectual disabilities. Service animals first receive rigorous training that can take up to two years.
For many, a service dog is the solution to many tasks a disabled person may be unable to do on their own, such as walking, being alerted of sounds, retrieving dropped objects, or being warned of oncoming seizures or blood sugar attacks.
Service animals take their jobs very seriously, and thus require high-quality training, which can be very costly. The average investment for a service animal is around $25,000 per year, plus around $2,500- $3,000 to care for them annually.
For many, the cost of a service animal is well out of budget, especially as there are more than twice the percentage of unemployed disabled people as those without disabilities, and a high percentage of those living in poverty have a disability or live with a disabled person.
Luckily, there are a number of non-profit organizations, foundations, and businesses that provide grants for disabled people eligible for a service dog. There are different types of grants based on disability type. Most of these grants require that you apply and provide documentation of a verifiable disability in order to be eligible.
Service Dog Grants
Assistance Dog United Campaign
This organization raises money in order to provide financial assistance to those in need of service dogs. You can find more information about the Assistance Dog United Campaign here.
Donations and annual fundraisers allow PETCO to donate around $15 million per year for service animals in the United States. Learn more about the PETCO foundation at their website.
The Seeing Eye
One of the oldest service animal grant programs in the United States, the Seeing Eye provides guide dogs for the visually impaired at a low cost, usually covered by donations. You can learn more about The Seeing Eye here.
Planet Dog Foundation
One of the most reputable companies providing funding for service animals, Planet Dog Foundation donates to various companies for the training of service animals to be matched with clients. More information about the Planet Dog Foundation can be found here.
To apply for a service dog grant, simply read the information and fill out an application on the grant’s website (see links above) and provide all necessary documentation, such as type of disability, doctor’s info and amount needed for the service animal.
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of disabled people in many ways, including those with service animals. The ADA requires that any governing bodies, businesses, and non-profit organizations make appropriate modifications for those with disabilities.
The ADA states that any person with a disability can bring a verified service dog to any public place, and should not be charged a fee for doing so.
Free Service Dog Training Services
Many states have at least one or two nonprofit service dog training facilities that will match you with a dog that they train free of charge if you have a disability that matches their specializations. To see if there are any options in your state, or your surrounding states, check out our guide. Many of these nonprofits serve veterans and children in particular.
The downside to using one of these services is that the wait time for these dogs tends to be much longer than training the dog yourself. The waiting list alone can take anywhere from six months to a couple of years, even before the training begins (which is typically an additional two or so years).
Many service dog handlers also prefer to work with a dog that they already know, and for the most part you won’t meet your dog from a nonprofit training service until the very end of the training process.
Other Financial Aid Available for Service Dogs
These options can help take care of additional service dog expenses.
The IRS now allows those with mental or physical disabilities to file expenses regarding service animals including food, training, veterinary care, and maintenance as medical deductions. Service dog training in particular can be a hefty cost, so this can save you big at tax time.
Even if your dog is a service dog, it doesn’t mean they can skip the vet’s office! Most veterinarians will discount their services up to 30% for service animals. Make sure to ask your veterinarian if they provide a discount.
Under the ADA and the Air Carrier Access Act, airlines must waive pet travel fees for passengers traveling with legitimate service animals. Service dogs will always be allowed to ride with you in the cabin for free. Along with this, airlines cannot charge a handler extra because of the size of their service dog–even oversized breeds are exempt from being placed in cargo for their trip.
Landlords are required to waive pet policy fees for tenants as long as the tenant meets certain conditions, and must not deny a tenant housing due to their disability or need for a service animal. This right is covered under the ADA, but emotional support animals can also qualify for pet fee exemption under the Fair Housing Act.
Many service dog training providers and other service dog-related services will offer a veterans’ discount if you ask! Along with this, there are lots of nonprofit trainers across the country that will train a custom service dog for you free of charge if you’re a veteran and you need your service dog for a disability related to your time spent in the military.
While services animals can be costly, they are an invaluable tool for many people suffering from disabilities. Some may say the cost of a service dog is a small price to pay considering they can change the quality of an impaired person’s life. However, for people who can’t afford service animals but are in need, there are many organizations and grants in place.
A Grant Can Help You Get the Service Dog You Need
While a service dog can be very expensive, grants and nonprofits can make it a much more manageable expense. Plus, you can also consider training your own service dog, which can be significantly less expensive.
Don’t let financial limitations keep you from getting the care and support you deserve. With these resources, a service dog can be within your reach.