Is a Service Dog worth the time, money, and energy?

I love it when there is actual scientific data to help with decisions (both in training and in all aspects of life). In this case, there are several studies addressing this very question. One study[1] on how animal-assisted interventions help adolescents with mental health issues suggests that there is considerable potential monetary benefit in addition to therapeutic benefits. According to the report:

  • “Improved facilitation engagement, retention and compliance can have a considerable impact on the financial burden imposed by mental health care […]."
  • "Similarly, improvements in therapist and staff morale resulting from [animal-assisted interventions] can have important impacts on the quality and continuity of patient care.”

Cost comparisons:

  • Another study[2] estimated the lifetime per-capita societal cost (such as direct medical and non-medical care, lost wages, adult care, etc.) for a person with autism in the United States, and they estimated the cost to be $3.2 million per person(!).
  • The cost of lifelong care for autism can be reduced by 2/3 with early diagnosis and intervention.[3] While this study didn't look at the use of Service Dogs, it can at least give you an idea of how lifetime financial costs can be reduced when medical symptoms are reduced.

At Pawsitivity, our conclusion is that if your family is a good fit for a Service Dog, the benefits of living with a Service Dog (including financial benefits) outweigh the other factors.

[1] Animal-Assisted Interventions in Adolescent Mental Health, Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society, University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, July 2004.

[2] JAMA Pediatrics, formerly Arch Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, Michael L. Ganz, MS, PhD, April 2007.

[3] Autism Society estimate, using Government Accounting Office Report on Autism 2007.