Service animals can be of enormous help to a handler with disabilities, whether physical or psychological, however, everything regarding the ownership of one must be considered carefully before even starting the process of finding the right one to adopt. Therefore, ask yourself the question, “Is a service animal right for me?”
What Exactly Is A Service Animal?
First and foremost, you must be certain of what a service animal actually is and base your decision on whether they’d be helpful and necessary for you or your loved one’s specific situation.
According to the ADA, service animals are mostly dogs (sometimes miniature horses) serving assistance to people with physical or psychiatric disabilities in performing major life tasks that they can’t do for themselves, whether in daily life or during specific events.
To qualify for getting one, a person must have a disability that substantially limits their ability to perform at least one major life task without assistance. In the case of psychiatric service dogs, they are not to be confused with emotional support animals, who are simply trained to provide support to their handlers in the form of companionship but don’t require the specific task training a service animal does, since only their presence is sufficient for helping the handler’s mental health.
Service dogs are specifically trained to assist their handlers in tasks that can vary from helping with their anxiety or PTSD, to providing bracing or counterbalancing to someone facing balance issues due to a disability or even alert their diabetic partner on potentially dangerous blood sugar levels.
Types Of Service Animals You Can Find:
There are many different types of service animals, and part of asking yourself if a service animal is right for you comes from learning what each type can do and how they can specifically help you in your situation.
There are over a dozen different specializations for service animals and while they have no bearing under federal law, the breaking down of each type of service animal is useful for both trainers and handlers. By knowing what specific functions, jobs and tasks each service animal is meant to fulfill, you can make a better, more specific selection of which one is right for whom.
When trying to figure out the answer to “Is a service animal right for me?” consider which type of life tasks you need special help with and whether or not getting a partner do them for you would actually represent improvements to your life and independence.
Everything You Need To Consider About Acquiring And Living With A Service Animal
Acquiring a service animal is a long, thought out process that requires you to not only find the correct dog, but then take care of it and its training upkeep for the rest of the animal’s life. Once you’ve decided that a service animal is indeed something that you need for a better quality of life, you need to be aware of everything that it entails. You won’t just be finding the right one, but sharing your life with them.
Time And Money
As we mentioned before, a service animal is usually a dog, and dogs can live up to 10 to 15 years, meaning that that’s how long they should pay companionship and assistance to you. That is 10 to 15 years in which you are responsible for a breathing, living being that requires nutritional food, care, health assistance, training upkeep or improving, a couple of daily walks, grooming, mental and physical exercise/stimulation and basically everything that requires your dog to be treated as a companion, not a tool or object.
The process of acquiring the right service animal for you entails time and some significant money. If you choose to go through partnering with the help of a specific service animal program costs can vary widely between $5000 to $20000, depending on application fees, travel, training, room and board costs, equipment fees and the cost of the actual dog.
For service animals, not many grants or funding is available, and while there’s always the option of fundraising, you must carefully consider the costs of the program chosen.
While there is the option to owner-train a service dog, this option also comes with its expenses. It’s not simply a matter of choosing a dog from the shelter and paying a few courses for it to undertake. Service dogs must possess a specific temperament and trainability in order to succeed at the demanding job they’re required for, and not just any dog will do. Finding the right dog can take months, and sometimes the best solution comes from getting a well-bred puppy from a breeder known for producing service dogs. A puppy such as this can cost from $800 to $3000 and then comes the training, which must be performed by a professional, even if it’s only every now and again. Trainers typically charge per class, ranging from $65 to $200 for 4 to 8-week sessions or per hour, going between $60 to $120 depending on your location.
Even just getting a dog from a shelter you still need to make sure to test their health and temperament, to have them socialized properly and know that they’re capable of undergoing the needed training. All in all, just going through this can be expected to cost you from $1,500 to $2,000, and that’s even before the training begins!
Part of finding out whether a service animal is right for you or not comes from figuring out if you are able to cover all of the costs involved not just in money, but also in time and commitment.
Living With A Service Animal
Service animals can bring peace, security and a new degree of ability to many people and while all of the benefits certainly overcome the struggles, that doesn’t mean you should forget that in fact, there are many aspects besides money to take into consideration.
A service dog isn’t something you just purchase, regardless of where you get them from. Even if you’re being partnered with one by a service animal program, they will demand you two to spend some time bonding, learn to communicate with each other and maintain the dog’s training.
You must not only make sure to provide them with practice time, boundaries and further training to make sure they don’t backslide, but also understand that they’re not perfect and there will be difficult days, not just in your dealings with your service animal but also in how society relates to them. Not everyone may be able to understand what a service dog does and why it is helpful to you and this can mean that you encounter strife at work, school or even with friends and family.
Also, service dogs can’t just be programmed and left to run, they’re complex animals with their own character, needs and requirements that you must be prepared to undertake no matter what. Living with one means that sometimes people will deny you access to certain places and you must be able to contend with it, which may sometimes mean explaining yourself over and over again.
Going places will take longer and you will most likely be the center of attention constantly, with people looking, pointing and gawking at you and your service animal, asking all types of questions and demanding you to be responsible for your partner, which you are, so making sure behave well and are on task comes as your part of your job.
All in all, only you are able to answer the question of whether a service animal is right for you or not. If after going through this post you’re still hesitant about it then make sure to take your time before finally deciding on it.
Service dogs can be lifesavers to many, but are not for everyone. However, if a service animal is for you then you are on the way to finding yourself a partner for life, one who will most certainly help you well on your path to greater independence and quality of life.