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Funding for Service Animals

Guest post contributed by Erin Swann, MSE, ATP, MDTAP

As defined by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), a service animal is a dog (or a miniature horse) that is trained to help people with disabilities by performing a task or doing work. Examples of work or tasks that could be performed by a service animal include alerting someone who is deaf, guiding someone who is blind, picking up objects for someone with a physical disability or providing reminders to someone with a cognitive disability.

The cost of purchasing a trained service animal can range from several hundred to several thousand dollars. Some service animal organizations require the recipient to fundraise several thousand dollars to cover the cost of the service animal as well as the training (which typically lasts 18-24 months) of the service animal.  However, for individuals with certain disabilities or who are veterans, lower cost options are available.

For example, Guiding Eyes for the Blind (www.guidingeyes.org) will provide a free service dog to a qualified applicant who is legally blind.  Guiding Eyes for the Blind will also cover costs associated with training the service dog and lifetime follow-up services.  Additionally, Warrior Canine Connection in Boyds, Maryland (www.warriorcanineconnection.org) will provide a free service dog to qualified veterans.  Veterans are responsible for the ongoing costs associated with owning a service dog (food, toys, and medical care), and the VA offers a program to assist veterans with ongoing costs.

Fidos for Freedom in Laurel, Maryland (www.fidosforfreedom.org) offers service dogs to those with physical or hearing disabilities as well as to veterans.  The cost of a service dog and training is $750, and payment plans are available if needed.  Approved applicants must complete 120 hours of training over several months before receiving a service dog in order to learn how to work with and take care of their dog.  Follow up training is required twice a month for the year following the placement of a service dog before ownership of the service dog is transferred to the recipient.  Additionally, follow up training support from Fidos for Freedom is available throughout the life of the service dog.

In certain situations, a money-saving measure for those needing a service animal is the ability to claim a tax deduction. For those who qualify, expenses related to purchasing, training, and maintaining a service animal can be claimed as medical expenses.  Also of note, for an employee receiving SSI or SSDI, when certain conditions are met, service animal costs can be counted as impairment-related work expenses (resulting in a lower reduction of SSI or SSDI benefits).  And finally, several veterinarians offer discounts to those with service dogs.

If funding is needed for a service animal, the Maryland Technology Assistance Program allows people with disabilities to apply for a low interest loan through the Assistive Technology Loan Program (http://mdod.maryland.gov/mdtap/Pages/AT-Financial-Loan-Program.aspx).  This loan could be approved up to $5,000 for the purchase and training of a service animal (does not cover ongoing expenses related to owning a service animal).

2 Responses to “Funding service animals, 12/13/16”

  1. Do you have contacts for miniature horses and training?

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