What to Consider: Service Dogs

Nowadays, there are plenty of tools to assist those with disabilities. In fact, we’ve written about many in the past. The fact of the matter is that tools are fantastic, but they’re not nearly as useful as the physical, emotional, and mental support you can receive from a friend, family member, or caretaker.

Unfortunately, not everyone with a disability lives with someone else or can afford to pay a caretaker full time. These people often end up exploring a different option; one that you could say is somewhat like a mix between a super useful tool and your best human friend: a service dog. Here are three tips to consider before purchasing a service dog.

Service dogs can offer a definite advantage to those with disabilities, though they come with certain stipulations that should be carefully researched. One of the first things to consider is the cost of arranging for, training, and caring for your service dog. In starting the process of acquiring a service dog, many agencies will charge an application fee to help cover the cost of training and equipment, and sometimes even the cost of the dog. While some agencies provide service animals as a free service, application fees do have the potential to reach $5,000+. Additionally, you’ll need to consider the overall “cost of living” for your new friend. Just like any dog, they’ll need food, toys, and veterinary care. The last major costs to consider are those associated with attending training, in the event that you have to travel to another city and arrange for your dog to fly as well as pay for your room and board while there.

Caring for your service dog is something you’ll need to carefully consider as well. Making sure you have a way to fee, water, groom, walk, and play with your service animal are aspects that are critical to having a successful experience and should be considered well in advance of acquiring a dog. Your disability may mean you simply can’t do all of these tasks yourself and may need to arrange for additional help. For instance; someone in the later stages of ALS may not be able to groom or walk their dog and would need help from a family member or caretaker to ensure the proper care of their service animal. Regardless of who is caring for the animal at any given time, the owner should be present at all times to help maintain a positive and strong connection with their dog.

Biggest Pro/Con
As with any purchase or investment, you need to weigh the pros against the cons to ensure the benefits outweigh any risks and that your expectations are in line with reality. The biggest one of these pros/cons relates to the very nature of owning a dog, especially if you have children. The con is that your service dog will certainly be cute and lovable but you must remember that they are first and foremost an aid to you, not a pet. Your first property is to keep them on task, performing their jobs, and adhering to their training so that they, in turn, can care for you. That said, having a dog that provides a sense of companionship and dependability is a huge pro when considering starting this process.

A service dog is not the right answer for every person and every disability, but for many it’s a helpful resource that can bring a lot of happiness, excitement, and fun back into life. If you’re considering getting a service dog,  below are a few links to organizations that can help find and place you with a service dog to meet your needs.

Canine Partners for Life

Paws with a Cause

Canine Assistants

Guardian Angels Medical Service Dogs

Like a service dog, a wheelchair accessible vehicle is a tool that can help make life with a disability simpler. Plus if you have a service dog, you need a way to get the two of you around! We have access to hundreds of wheelchair vans both new and used.

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