The Financial Burden of Owning a Service Dog

Not everyone has money. This becomes a problem when Americans, who suffer from a disability, need a service dog but cannot afford one.

The National Institute of Disability and Rehabilitation Research Center provides people with the number of U.S. citizens who suffer from a disability. Statistics reveal that in 1996 that approximately “5.8 million Americans need assistance in Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) includes shopping, preparing meals, while 3.4 million need assistance in “Activities of Daily Living” (ADL) includes bathing, dressing, eating, walking, and other personal functioning activities.” More recently, the U.S. Census Bureau concluded that approximately “1 in 5 U.S. residents, or 19% of the population, reported to suffer from some kind of a disability in 2005.

With such a high percentage of Americans suffering from a disability, service dogs have become more and more popular, however due to today’s economy, not everyone in need of a service dog has access to one.

Since health insurance doesn’t cover the cost of service dogs, the owner would have to cover all expenses. This includes food, vet checkups and other items to cover the basic needs. This now means that people, who could have benefited from this service, are stuck and are faced with a financial burden.

According to Ed Eames, president of a nonprofit advocacy organization, the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners mentions that not being able to provide a disabled person with a service dog is something that they hate to do, especially when it’s because the owner is not financially stable to pay and care for one. “This is not a wealthy group. Seventy percent of disabled people are unemployed.”

Southwest Florida Professional Dog Trainers Alliance (PDTA), a non-profit organization, likes to lend a helping hand to those who struggle financially when trying to get a service dog. Jeannie Bates, founder and professional dog trainer of PDTA mentions that service dogs in her program are funded through the support of private donors, grants and family foundations. “In our case, we don’t charge at all for our service dogs and also offer lifetime support for nutrition and vet care if needed. In reality no one should ever pay for a service dog.”

Although there are many non-profit organizations that are able to give out service dogs free of charge, many still require the owner to pay for half of the expenses. Bates talks about how this can become very expensive for people. “Depending on the dog, the price can range from $20,000 – $50,000.”

On top of the additional expenses, if the dog’s health becomes a problem, veterinarian bills can add an additional $1,500 a year on average.

“If a dog becomes ill or is hurt, vet bills can go much, much higher,” said Jeanine Konopelski, director of marketing for Canine Companions for Independence.

Even though the economy may limit many disabled people from getting a service dog, there are options. There are multiple organizations that do provide service dogs free of charge, but the waiting list is long and in some cases, can be up to five years. For more information regarding service dogs, contact your local Humane Society at this website

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