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Unlike emotional support animals (ESAs) that simply provide comfort, service dogs must go through advanced training to both provide assistance to and perform tasks for their owners.
The Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act states that you can train a service dog on your own, but many people opt to get one through a professional training organization.
If you’re considering buying or training a service dog, service dog loans or other financial options might help you cover the cost.
Here are three ways to buy a service dog:
- Check out grants for service dogs
- Investigate your health plan benefits
- Use a personal loan to fill in the gaps
1. Check out grants for service dogs
A trained service dog can cost up to $60,000, which could be prohibitive for people with disabilities. However, some organizations offer grants and scholarships to help individuals cover the cost.
Here are a few of the organizations that offer financial assistance programs:
- Assistance Dog United provides vouchers to people with disabilities to help them pay for service dogs from partnering programs. Depending on the type of assistance the dog provides, the vouchers can be worth up to $5,000.
- Canine Companions for Independence is geared toward helping people with physical disabilities and veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Unlike other nonprofits, it doesn’t charge any fees for its service dogs. Instead, you’ll only have to pay for transportation and accommodations during the two-week matching and training period.
- Canines for Disabled Kids is a nonprofit organization for children with physical or psychological disabilities. It offers scholarships ranging from $250 to $5,000 to help eligible children get a service dog.
- Doggie Does Good is a nonprofit organization that connects individuals to trained service dogs. If you complete its financial assistance application, you might be able to have a portion of a service dog’s cost covered by Doggie Does Good’s fundraising efforts.
- The Seeing Eye trains seeing-eye dogs for people with vision impairment. Thanks to donations from the public, The Seeing Eye provides guide dogs at a low cost: $150 for an individual’s first dog, then $50 for each dog afterward. Military veterans pay only $1 for a seeing-eye dog.
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2. Investigate your health plan benefits
There are two types of health plans that you might be able to use to pay a portion of your service dog costs:
- Health Savings Account (HSA): If you have a high-deductible health plan, you can use an HSA to set aside pre-tax dollars to pay for qualified medical expenses. Unspent HSA funds roll over from year to year. For 2021, the maximum you can contribute to an HSA per year is $3,600 for individuals or $7,200 for families.
- Flexible Spending Account (FSA): An FSA is another tax-free savings option that’s available through some employer-sponsored health plans. You can contribute up to $2,750 per year — though unlike HSAs, you typically have to use all of your FSA funds by the end of the year.
Guide dogs or service dogs are generally considered qualified medical expenses under both HSAs and FSAs.
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3. Use a personal loan to fill in the gaps
While grants, donations, or health savings could help pay for a service dog, you might still need to borrow money to fully cover the cost.
If this is the case, a personal loan could be a good option to fill any financial gaps so you can get your dog right away.
You can get a personal loan from a few types of lenders, including online lenders, banks, and credit unions. With a personal loan, you might be able to borrow up to $100,000 or more.
Repayment terms generally range from one to seven years, depending on the lender — meaning you can spread the cost out over several years.
If you decide to use a personal loan to pay for a service dog, be sure to consider as many lenders as possible to find the right loan for you. Credible makes this easy — you can compare your prequalified rates from our partner lenders in the table below in two minutes.
|Lender||Fixed rates||Loan amounts||Min. credit score||Accept cosigners?|
|7.99% - 29.99% APR||$10,000 to $35,000||Not disclosed by lender||Yes|
|9.95% - 35.99% APR||$2,000 to $35,000**||550||No|
|8.99% - 35.99% APR||$2,000 to $50,000||600||No|
|6.99% - 24.99% APR||$2,500 to $35,000||660||No|
|7.99% - 29.99% APR||$5,000 to $40,000||600||No|
|8.3% - 35.89% APR||$1,000 to $40,000||600||Yes|
|7.99% - 35.99% APR||$2,000 to $36,500||580||No|
|5.99% - 23.99% APR||$5,000 to $100,000||660||Yes|
|18.0% - 35.99% APR||$1,500 to $20,000||None||Yes|
|7.74% - 17.99% APR||$600 to $50,000 |
(depending on loan term)
|6.99% - 35.99% APR||$2,000 to $50,000||640||No|
|7.99% - 23.43% APR10||$5,000 to $100,000||Does not disclose||Yes|
|11.69% - 35.93% APR7||$1,000 to $20,000||560||No|
|8.49% - 35.97% APR||$1,000 to $50,000||560||No|
|5.4% - 35.99% APR4||$1,000 to $50,0005||580||No|
Service dog loans: Frequently asked questions
Here are some answers to a few commonly asked questions about service dog loans:
How much does a service dog cost?
The cost to get a service dog — either through an agency or training one yourself — can be quite high. It takes about two years to train a service dog and typically costs between $10,000 and $60,000, depending on the type of tasks the dog is trained to perform.
However, keep in mind that getting the dog is only the first expense. Typically, owners spend about $2,100 per year to care for their service dogs. These costs can include veterinary care, dog food, heartworm and flea preventatives, pet insurance, and more.
Learn More: How to Build Credit Fast
Are service dogs and ESAs the same?
No. Service dogs and emotional support animals (ESAs) are very different.
A service dog has undergone extensive training to do work and perform tasks for an individual with a disability. For example, a service dog might:
- Alert someone with diabetes that their blood sugar is low
- Detect an oncoming seizure in a person with epilepsy
- Help a blind person navigate around obstacles
- Remind someone to take their medications
ESAs, on the other hand, aren’t trained to perform tasks. Instead, they provide comfort by being with their owner. ESAs aren’t eligible for most forms of financial assistance, and you can’t use HSA or FSA funds for their care.
If you’re interested in an ESA, you could use a personal loan to cover the cost of adopting and caring for the animal.
If you decide to get a personal loan for an ESA, remember to compare as many lenders as you can to find a loan that fits your needs. Credible makes this easy — you can see your prequalified rates from multiple lenders in two minutes.
Check Out: What Is APR?
What other financial help is available for service dogs?
As a service dog owner, you might qualify for additional discounts and benefits. Here are a few accommodations that you could be eligible for:
If you have a service dog, some organizations, professionals, and retailers offer discounts on necessary services, such as:
- Accessories: Some retailers offer discounts to service dogs on equipment, such as leashes, harnesses, collars, and dog boots. For example, you could get discounts through Ruffwear if you apply and are approved for the company’s Ruffwear Pro Purchase program.
- Food: Some dog food manufacturers, such as Darwin’s Natural Pet Products, offer discounts to service dog owners on food and treats.
- Recovery program: If you join the International Association of Assistance Dog Partners (IAADP), you can register your service dog for free in the Animal Recovery Program run by the American Kennel Club. This program can help you reunite with your service animal if the dog is ever lost or separated from you in an accident.
- Veterinary care: The IAADP has partnered with the Veterinary Centers of America (VCA) to offer members discounts on veterinary care. If you’re an IAADP member and visit a VAC facility, you could get 10% off veterinary services.
Owners of service dogs or ESAs are eligible for some protections through the Fair Housing Act (FHA). Under the FHA, housing providers must provide reasonable accommodations, such as:
- Allowing you to rent properties that have no-pet policies
- Potentially waiving pet fees or deposits
If you itemize your deductions, you can deduct eligible medical expenses on your tax return. According to the IRS, you can deduct the following service dog expenses:
- The cost of purchasing and training a service dog
- Veterinary care
Keep in mind that this deduction only applies to service animals. ESAs aren’t eligible for tax deductions.
If you’re traveling with a service dog, the following protections could help you save money:
- Hotels: If you stay at a hotel, you’re not restricted to pet-friendly rooms. You also won’t have to pay a cleaning fee for your service dog, as hotels aren’t permitted by the ADA to charge fees for hair or dander shed by a service animal.
- Flights: Under the Air Carrier Access Act, people with documented physical or psychiatric disabilities who have a trained service dog can bring their dog in the cabin with them without paying an additional fee. As of December 2020, ESAs no longer qualify for these benefits.
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About Rates and Terms: Rates for personal loans provided by lenders on the Credible platform range between 5.40%-35.99% APR with terms from 12 to 84 months. Rates presented include lender discounts for enrolling in autopay and loyalty programs, where applicable. Actual rates may be different from the rates advertised and/or shown and will be based on the lender’s eligibility criteria, which include factors such as credit score, loan amount, loan term, credit usage and history, and vary based on loan purpose. The lowest rates available typically require excellent credit, and for some lenders, may be reserved for specific loan purposes and/or shorter loan terms. The origination fee charged by the lenders on our platform ranges from 0% to 10%. Each lender has their own qualification criteria with respect to their autopay and loyalty discounts (e.g., some lenders require the borrower to elect autopay prior to loan funding in order to qualify for the autopay discount). All rates are determined by the lender and must be agreed upon between the borrower and the borrower’s chosen lender. For a loan of $10,000 with a three year repayment period, an interest rate of 7.99%, a $350 origination fee and an APR of 11.51%, the borrower will receive $9,650 at the time of loan funding and will make 36 monthly payments of $313.32. Assuming all on-time payments, and full performance of all terms and conditions of the loan contract and any discount programs enrolled in included in the APR/interest rate throughout the life of the loan, the borrower will pay a total of $11,279.43. As of March 12, 2019, none of the lenders on our platform require a down payment nor do they charge any prepayment penalties.