A service dog trained to work with a child diagnosed with autism can cost anywhere from $8,000 to upwards of $40,000. But with grants and other financial assistance from nonprofits, you just might be able to reduce your out-of-pocket costs.
1. Start with research.
Although many organizations offer service dogs, not all of them work with children who have autism. Research organizations that offer autism assistance dogs before looking into grants.
Knowing how much money you need to raise — and how long the waitlist is — can help guide you toward available grants and financing.
Organizations that train autism assistance dogs and advise how much you’ll need to raise include:
- Pawsitivity Service Dogs: $39,000
- Little Angels Service Dogs: $38,000
- 4 Paws For Ability: $17,000
- Autism Service Dogs of America: $16,500
- Brigadoon Service Dogs: $10,000
- NEADS: $8,000
- PAALS: $5,000
- Autism Dog Services: $0
- Canine Companions for Independence: $0
- Dogs for Better Lives: $0
- Freedom Service Dogs: $0
2. Look for general grants.
Grants designed to cover the costs of a service dog are rare, and so you might find it easier to focus on grants that help families of children with autism.
These five organizations offer grants that can offset treatments, medication and other costs to ease the strain on your budget and help you save for an autism assistance dog yourself:
- California Autism Resource and Evaluation Foundation. The CARE Grant Program is designed to help families afford medical treatments, including autism diagnosis, evaluation, therapy and medication.
- First Hand Foundation. The First Hand Foundation offers grants to cover treatment and equipment for a variety of childhood illnesses and disorders. And unlike other organizations, it supports families worldwide.
- Maggie Welby Foundation. The Maggie Welby Foundation helps families with a variety of financial needs, from bills to athletic opportunities to medical expenses.
- Modest Needs. Modest Needs helps families living just above the poverty line cover unexpected or monthly expenses.
- United Healthcare Children’s Foundation. If your family’s insurance doesn’t fully cover your child’s medical expenses, you may be eligible for a United Healthcare Children’s Foundation grant designed to meet a wide range of medical needs.
3. Apply for financial assistance.
Many service dog training facilities offer financial aid to families who demonstrate need and lack the ability to fundraise. The eligibility criteria and exact amount you receive varies based on your circumstances and the nonprofit you’re working with.
Here are a few training facilities that offer financial assistance:
- PAALS. Rather than charge for the dog, PAALS requires you to pay a fee for your part of its training courses — but it won’t turn you away if you can’t afford the fee.
- Little Angels Service Dogs. While you’ll need to fundraise at least $9,500, the remainder of the cost will be dealt with by Little Angels if you can’t handle the full $38,000 fee.
- Pawsitivity Service Dogs. Pawsitivity is willing to cover half of the cost of your service dog, meaning you’d only be on the hook for raising $19,500.
Other tips for financing an autism assistance dog
You’ll find ways to help cover the cost of a service dog outside of grants and financial aid:
- Crowdfunding. Setting up an account on a crowdfunding site like GoFundMe gives family, friends and your social community the opportunity to contribute to your cause.
- Consider your FSA account. Apply funds from your flexible spending account toward paying for a service dog with a letter of medical necessity from your child’s doctor. It allows you to use your pretax salary, helping you save a percentage of what you would’ve paid in federal taxes.
- Apply for a loan. A personal loan from a bank, credit union or online lender can help you spread out the cost of a dog over three to five years. But you’ll be on the hook for interest and fees, so this is best saved as a last resort.
- Deduct the cost from your taxes. While it doesn’t ease the burden of paying for a service dog directly, deducting the cost from your taxes can help come April.
Grants can be useful to cover the cost of a service dog, but you won’t find many grants explicitly earmarked for it. Instead, search for general grants open to families of children with autism. And think about fundraising on your own to offset further costs.
About the author
Kellye Guinan is a loans writer with Finder. Since July 2017, she’s written nearly 300 articles and guides on personal, car and student loans to help readers come to unfamiliar decisions. Kellye earned bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and German with a minor in writing from Middle Tennessee State University. When she’s not steeped in interest and rates, she’s exploring her love of language through creative writing.