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For people with disabilities, a service dog can make daily life much safer and more comfortable. Service animals can help their owners navigate the world, increase independence and awareness, and even perform everyday tasks.
While emotional support animals don’t require any specialized training beyond the regular training a pet needs, service animals are dogs that are specifically trained to perform tasks for individuals with a disability. This training can take years and is expensive — running anywhere from $15,000 to $50,000, according to the Service Dog, Therapy Dog & Emotional Support Animal Registry.
Fortunately, many resources can help make getting a service dog more affordable, including a personal loan. You can use Credible to see your prequalified personal loan rates from various lenders, all in one place.
1. Check out grants for service dogs
Several nonprofit organizations and foundations in the U.S. provide grants to help people with disabilities get a service dog. Here are a few to check out.
Assistance Dog United Campaign
The Assistance Dog United Campaign (ADUC) provides vouchers to people with disabilities, which they can take to local ADUC partner programs to help pay for the cost of training a service dog.
ADUC provides vouchers of up to $5,500 for service, hearing, and guide dogs, and up to $2,500 for social and therapy dogs.
Application instructions can be found online and are only accepted during April and May.
Patriot PAWS trains and provides service dogs to disabled American veterans. While the program provides the service animals free of charge, applicants need to undergo a background check, certify that they’re financially able to cover the expense of owning a pet, and attend a 14-day training program at the Patriot PAWS facility in Texas at their own expense.
The application, approval, and placement process can take three years or more.
The Seeing Eye
The Seeing Eye breeds and raises puppies to become seeing-eye dogs for people with visual impairments and trains people on how to properly handle and care for their dogs.
Prospective students can apply online or request an application by calling 800-539-4425 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Students pay just $150 for their first dog and $50 for subsequent dogs. Military veterans pay $1. Once your application is accepted, it can take anywhere from three to six months to be placed in a class.
Canine Companions places service dogs with children, adults, and veterans with disabilities. The service animals are provided at no cost to approved applicants. But the recipient has to pay for transportation to and from a regional training center, meals and lodging during training, and the ongoing costs of feeding and caring for the assistance animal after placement.
You can start the application process online. According to the website, there’s a waitlist for service dogs. But the wait time varies depending on the applicant’s needs.
You can find information on other service dog programs via Assistance Dogs International.
2. Investigate and use your health plan benefits
Unfortunately, health insurance — whether private or through Medicare — doesn’t cover the cost of getting or maintaining a service dog.
But you may be able to use funds from a health savings account (HSA) or flexible spending arrangement (FSA) to cover costs associated with a service animal.
Both FHAs and HSAs are tax-advantaged savings accounts that let you set aside pre-tax money to pay for qualified medical expenses. Funds from an HSA can roll over from year to year, while funds in an FSA have a “use it or lose it” policy, meaning any funds you don’t spend by the end of the year (plus a specified grace period, if your plan allows it) are lost.
For 2022, you can contribute up to $3,650 to an HSA as a single person or $7,300 for a family plan. If you’re 55 or older, you can contribute an extra $1,000.
You can contribute up to $2,850 to a healthcare FSA for 2022.
To be eligible for reimbursement for a service dog through an HSA or FSA:
- The service animal must be required for medical care.
- You should have a Letter of Medical Necessity from your doctor verifying that you need a service dog for the diagnosis, treatment, or prevention of a disease or medical condition.
3. Use a personal loan to fill in the gaps
Waiting years to get a service dog from a nonprofit organization or foundation isn’t uncommon. To speed up the process, some people with disabilities buy or adopt a dog, then fundraise or take out a loan to pay for training.
A personal loan is a good option for financing the cost of training a service dog because you can use the loan funds for any purpose, and you can spread the cost of training over several years.
If you decide to use a personal loan to cover the cost of training a service dog, be sure to shop around with several lenders to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this process easy — you can compare prequalified rates from multiple partner lenders in minutes.
Service dog loan FAQs
Here are the answers to a few commonly asked questions about service dog loans.
How much does a service dog cost?
The cost of a service dog varies depending on whether you apply for a trained service animal or train your own dog, the level of training you need, and the program you go through.
Here’s a breakdown of some common expenses involved in getting a service dog:
- Fully trained service dog — $15,000 to $50,000, depending on how much intensive training is required
- Character test — $300 to $400 to see if your dog is a good service dog candidate
- Training — $150 to $250 per hour, for a minimum of 120 hours
- Ongoing veterinary care — $1,000 to $2,000 a year
- Food — $300 per year
- Service dog registration fees — $100 to $200
Plus, don’t forget about the cost of grooming, buying toys and treats, collars, leashes, and other accessories.
Are service dogs and ESAs the same?
Service dogs and emotional support animals (ESAs) are not the same. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, emotional support animals aren’t considered service dogs. They provide companionship and may assist their owners with anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. However, they generally don’t require the same level of training as service dogs that perform specific tasks to aid a person with a physical disability.
ESAs for a mental disability generally don’t qualify for most financial assistance, but you can take out a personal loan to cover the cost of getting one.
What other financial help is available for service dogs?
Service dogs come with several benefits, including:
- Service dogs traveling with their owner are exempt from the pet fees that airlines charge.
- Landlords and homeowners associations aren’t allowed to discriminate against people with a service dog, even if they normally have a “no pets” rule.
- Landlords and hotels can’t charge pet fees for service dogs.
- Cities can’t require citizens to license their service dogs.
Check with your state or city’s department of social services to see if any other financial assistance is available. For example, in California, the Assistance Dog Special Allowance program provides a monthly payment of $50 to help service dog owners cover the cost of food, grooming, and veterinary care.
If you need a personal loan to help cover the cost of a service dog, Credible makes it easy to compare personal loan rates from multiple lenders in minutes.