Service dogs are often life changing for people with disabilities. While both a service dog and a typical pet form bonds with their families and “people,” a service dog is specifically trained to mitigate a physical or psychological disability. In fact, in order to be considered a true service dog, the animal must perform a task that the owner cannot perform themselves due to their disability.
These mitigators could include navigating for a blind owner, such as a Seeing Eye dog. Other tasks service dogs often perform are alerting an epileptic owner if they’re about to have a seizure, opening doors, turning on and off lights, or helping their owner with routine tasks that couldn’t be done otherwise.
Even though these dogs are highly trained to help mitigate their specific owner’s disability, they’re still just like regular dogs in that they can get sick, injured, or require veterinary attention. That leaves owners with many of the same questions as pet owners—including whether to get pet insurance for their service dog.
Why Service Dog Insurance Makes Sense
While pet owners may spend from a few hundred dollars to as much as $3,500 for a dog, a service dog costs between $20,000 and $40,000. True service dogs are bred for temperament, intelligence, and suitability to the task they’re expected to perform. As a result, they’re often bred from top working lines that are more expensive than the average “puppies for sale” ad found in the local paper.
The average service dog also undergoes between 1-2 years of training before it can ever be placed with a disabled owner—who also has to undergo some training before taking possession of the dog. Even though the dogs are highly expensive to train, breed, and maintain, most medical insurance policies don’t cover the cost. Getting a dog means a large financial investment on the part of the owner that doesn’t stop for years after the dog’s purchase. If those dogs suffer injury or illness, the costs can quickly grow even more.
Service dogs provide critical abilities for the disabled. For many of these owners, they’d be unable to leave their home or function in society without their dogs. If their dog is sick, hurt, or cannot perform the job, that affects the disabled owner in ways that can be catastrophic. If the owner cannot afford emergency medical care in a crisis, the ramifications could be both far-reaching and highly negative for both the dog and the owner.
Another reason it makes sense to have service dog insurance is the same reason it makes sense to insure a family pet—love. If you love your dog, you’ll want to make sure you can adequately provide for its needs. Pet insurance can help you do that.
Are There Specialized Insurance Plans for Service Dogs?
There are a number of pet insurance plans, and they work much like the plans you might get for yourself. They have policies and premiums, and they limit how much or what they will cover. There aren’t any special insurance plans just for service dogs, but some flexible medical spending plans offered by employers allow their employees to use their pre-tax dollars to help pay for qualified medical costs pertaining to the dog. It must be a documented disability, and the dog must be specifically trained to do tasks or assist the owner with tasks they cannot do themselves. Flexible spending plans, however, do not cover any type of emotional support dog.
Is Working Dog Insurance More Expensive?
Thankfully, the short answer is no, directly speaking. However, it can be more expensive for certain reasons.
Pet insurance is based upon the species, breed, or expected problems for that breed. The best way to compare plans is to go to individual websites and look at what each of them offer. The American Kennel Club offers several plans, and there are other companies as well, such as Trupanion.
So, it won’t be more expensive from the fact that it’s a service dog. However, some service dogs are more likely to be high-quality breeds, so pet insurance could be more expensive for a service dog in that respect.
Should You Get Service Dog Insurance?
Service dogs make life easier for people with disabilities; in some cases, their dogs make it possible for them to lead more normal lives. After the huge financial investment in the dog and training, it’s could be a good idea to also protect that investment by insuring it for illness or injury. It could help a disabled service dog owner re-enter their daily routine sooner rather than later.