Cost (price) of a service dog

The average cost (price) to train a service dog in 2021 is $25,000* (this is the same for all nonprofit service dog organizations). At Pawsitivity, there is an income-based sliding-scale fee because that policy keeps the process sustainable, and scholarships (up to 100%) are available.

*Source: PAWS Act, US Congress, 117th Congress, 1st Session, H. R. 1022.


Fundraising Requirements for Recipients

Training service dogs is a costly undertaking. The national average cost for raising and training a service dog—which takes into account the initial costs of acquiring the dog, medical and veterinary care, paying the trainers a living wage, supporting the dog/handler team for a decade, buying food and equipment, continuing education for the trainer, etc.—is $25,000. This is the average it costs any organization in the U.S. if that seems high, remember that half to three-quarters of service dogs “fail out”, and the expenses of the failed-out dogs must be borne by the ones that go through the entire program. So, for example, if a particular graduate dog cost the organization $12,500, double that amount must be raised to cover the loss of one that failed out.

Each organization has different fundraising requirements for the recipient of a service dog:

1 – Some organizations (like Pawsitivity) are so well established that they don’t ask the handler/family to do any fundraising. The organization does all the fundraising. At Pawsitivity, we think it's fairest to use a sliding scale, so if the client is low-income, the cost is minimal or none.

2 – Some organizations ask the handler/family to do about half the fundraising.

3 – Some organizations ask the handler/family to do all the fundraising.

Is the Cost Worth It?

Studies say yes: “In addition to the contributions service dogs can make toward a higher level of independence, service dogs are also a cost-effective form of assistance”**. These studies have found that not only are people able to stop using “at least one assistive device because of the help of their service dog”***, but also, paid human assistance significantly decreased.****

**Onsager, Sarah. "Experiences with a service dog of an adolescent with spinal muscular atrophy." (2011), University of Puget Sound.

***Rintala, D. H., Matamoros, R., & Seitz, L. L. (2008). Effects of assistance dogs on persons with mobility or hearing impairments: A pilot study. Journal of Rehabilitation Research and Development, 45, 489-504.

****Allen, K., & Blascovich, J. (1996). The value of service dogs for people with severe ambulatory disabilities. A randomized controlled trial. Journal of the American Medical Association, 275, 1001-1006.

****Fairman, S. K., & Huebner, R. A. (2000). Service dogs: A compensatory resource to improve function. Occupational Therapy in Health Care, 13(2), 41-52. 

****Ng, P. W., James, M. A., & McDonald, C. (2000). Service dogs for disabled children: Effects of level of independence and quality of life. Topics in Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation, 6, 96-104.