Although service dogs are able to help with autism and epilepsy, a trained dog will cost you up to $40,000 and your insurance will not cover it.
Jenni Mahnaz says she isn’t a big fan of dogs. As a child, she was mildly allergic to her pet hermit crab. She was able to see that specially trained dogs could assist her daughters with their medical issues and she was ready to do whatever it took to make it happen.
Suraiya (6 years old) was diagnosed with autism and sensory processing difficulties. Shortly thereafter, Phoenix, a 4-year-old girl was diagnosed with epilepsy.
Mahnaz stated that it is likely that the family will end up with two service dog. “I believe we are probably looking at $10,000 per canine.”
This is a major hurdle for the Troy family of five, New York. They have a low income and will need to pay a trainer to train their service dogs.
An fully trained service canine charged by organizations ranges from $15,000 to $40,000, depending on whether they have raised and trained the dog for at least a year. Health insurance does not cover the cost of this service dog. Some trainers place dogs with children or have long waiting lists.
Mahnaz stated that although this is costly for us, it is our responsibility to provide a good standard of living for our girls. It is necessary for them, and it will make an enormous difference in their lives.
As service dogs are more adept at helping people with disabilities, the demand for them has increased in recent years. Dogs used to be able to help people with vision impairments or mobility impairments. Now they can also assist people with autism, diabetes, and other mental disorders. This has resulted in a surge in demand for nonprofit service dogs trainers who usually donate dogs to patients at a minimal application fee. Unmet needs led to the creation of a service dog industry that is expensive and has high prices.
However, rapid growth has been accompanied by little oversight. This could expose people with complex medical issues to enormous financial barriers, poorly trained dogs and fraud. These pitfalls can be made worse by social media such as GoFundMe, which allows families to reach pricing thresholds that they might not be able afford. This market is booming, which encourages trainers and consultants to charge higher prices for their services in the hope that donations will follow.
To lower their costs, some people, such as the Mahnaz families, choose to train their dogs themselves. Trainers warn that self-trained dogs have a lower success rate than trained ones, and that families could lose thousands of dollars.
“The dog could totally fail. Mahnaz stated that we could end up with an adult canine who is not a service dog. “The truth is that we have no choice.
Lynette Har, an associate professor of veterinary medicine at University of California-Davis, stated that there are no regulations regarding service dog trainers. This has allowed for many backyard trainers to train service dogs. Service dogs are not certified.
She said, “It’s a huge opportunity for dog trainers to say, ‘Oh, I will buy you one for tens or thousands of dollars. It’s kind of a Wild West issue.
Families are also at risk of being burned without recourse.
Sheila O’Brien is the chairperson of North American board of Assistance Dogs International. Although the group certifies service dog trainers, accreditation is voluntary. Nonprofit organizations are not eligible. There are currently 80 members accredited to the group and 25 candidate programs across North America. It is unknown how many dog trainers in the United States are unaccredited.
It’s easy to defraud people via the internet. There is a lot to be made in this area,” stated David Favre a Michigan State University law professor who specializes in animal law. It’s not controlled and has gotten worse.
For example, in 2018, Virginia’s attorney-general filed a lawsuit claiming that Service Dogs by Warren Retrievers was charging families up to $27,000 for their dogs but sometimes delivering “poorly-trained puppies with severe behavioral issues or inadequate skills or training.” The lawsuit settled last year for $3,000,000.
In 2020, North Carolina’s attorney General filed a similar suit to the owner Ry-Con, which is a non-profit service dog trainer. Ry-Con was accused of charging families $16,710 for their dogs, despite the fact that they knew the dogs weren’t properly trained.
Both companies have closed and the owners of the other training firms could not be reached.
O’Brien says that the average cost of training a dog in the United States is $30,000 Trainers should also consider the cost of the 60% of dogs that don’t make it to the end of training.
Sometimes, dogs can pass away due to temperament or health issues. O’Brien stated that some dogs are simply lovers, and not workers.
Jennifer Arnold is the founder of Canine Assistants. This Milton, Georgia-based nonprofit training organization said that there’s still a lot to do after a dog graduates. However, many for-profit trainers stop their involvement once the dog has been sold. Many people require assistance with problems such as leash-walking or housebreaking.
Arnold stated that clients can get dogs who aren’t ready and sometimes dogs end up with families that don’t follow through. It’s hard for both parties, but the families are often more favored than the other.
Canine assistants can place up to 100 dogs each year, but they receive about 1,400 applications.
Arnold stated that “the need is overwhelming.” It made the industry ideal for people who want to make a few dollars.
Most of the time, this money doesn’t come directly from patients’ pockets.
Kelly Camm is the development director at the Xenia-based nonprofit 4 Paws for Ability. She said that only 5% of Ohio families have the funds to pay the $17,000 required for a service animal. Rest rely on donations from their family, friends and sometimes strangers.
Medical Mutts Service Dogs of Indianapolis trains around 30 service dogs per year. About a third are dogs that board with them to train.
“There’s no guarantee that any of these dogs will go through,” stated Eva Rudasile the Medical Mutts director of client services. It can be quite stressful for dogs to learn certain behaviors when they are first trained and taken out in public. Some dogs just don’t have the ability to handle this.
Medical Mutts charges between $15,000 and $17,000 to train a program dog, depending on the type of disability. A dog can be boarded and trained for $11,000 The family loses that money if the dog is euthanized. A program dog guarantees that the dog will complete the training.
Rudasile stated, “That’s the greatest plus for a programme dog.” They don’t run the risk of saying, “OK, I bought a dog, now I have to keep it. It’s not working.”
This is a risk worth taking for the Mahnaz family. To raise $4,000 for their first dog, a goldendoodle from a breeder, a friend set up a GoFundMe Page. The dog will be trained in basic obedience and then, once the dog is mature enough, they’ll begin training it as a service dog.
They hope Suraiya will be able to cope with social situations that are not comfortable and calm her down when she is nearing a meltdown. They will eventually get another dog to alert them if Phoenix has a seizure.
Suraiya cannot yet write but has created a list with potential names for dogs: Blueberry and Stardust, Alex, Stardust and Jelly-Jam. Phoenix settled on Pancake.