Ser­vice dogs o er proven ben­e­fits, but it’s al­most im­pos­si­ble to get one — un­less you’re will­ing to spend $30K.

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Though it de­pends on the type of ser­vice dog you’re af­ter, the process of bring­ing one into a fam­ily is oner­ous, says Danielle Forbes, Na­tional Ser­vice Dogs ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor. Even if you or your child have the right di­ag­no­sis and can pro­vide a safe home (all things that should be taken into ac­count by a rep­utable ser­vice dog provider), many pro­grams in Canada no longer have open wait-lists. Since each in­di­vid­ual ser­vice dog re­quires up­wards of $30K of train­ing over its life­span, and re­spectable pro­grams tend to cover those costs with do­na­tions, these or­ga­ni­za­tions sim­ply don’t have the fi­nan­cial re­sources to meet the grow­ing de­mand. “Peo­ple are des­per­ate, and they’re turn­ing to self-train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties and buy­ing dogs off peo­ple,” says Forbes, with some fam­i­lies pay­ing into the tens of thou­sands of dol­lars, some­times for dogs that aren’t trained or ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing ad­e­quate sup­port. But you can make a dif­fer­ence by do­nat­ing to lo­cal or­ga­ni­za­tions to help bring more prop­erly trained dogs to the chil­dren and adults who so badly need them.

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