Note: This article’s statistics come from third-party sources and do not represent the opinions of this website.
Dogs trained to serve and assist humans are incredible animals indeed. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), “Service animals are defined as dogs that are individually trained to do work or perform tasks for people with disabilities.” Also, in the eyes of the law, emotional support dogs and therapy dogs are not service dogs. The dog must also not be a pet but must be specially trained to assist the handler with something directly related to his disability.
Ahead we’ve compiled 10 remarkable service animal statistics, including how long it takes to train a service dog and what some of the costs of training and caring for a service dog may be.
The 10 Service Dog Statistics
- There are about 500,000 service dogs in the US.
- 26% of adults in the United States have some type of disability.
- Only 10,000 guide dog teams are currently working in the United States.
- It takes an average of 1.5 years to train a service dog.
- People in need of a service dog must wait up to 3 years.
- Assistance Dogs International (ADI) placed 4,795 assistance dogs worldwide in 2019.
- The total cost of training a service dog is typically over $40,000.
- Hiring a professional assistance dog trainer can cost around $150–$250 an hour.
- More than half of the assistance dog candidates do not complete their training.
- Veterinarian fees while training service dogs cost thousands of dollars.
Statistics of Service Dogs for People Living With Disabilities in the United States
1. There are about 500,000 service dogs in the US
While half a million service dogs might seem high, there are unfortunately not enough for everyone with a disability in the United States. For this reason, it can take a long time for an individual to find a qualified service dog.
2. 26% of adults in the United States have some type of disability
There are over 61 million adults in the United States living with a disability. This represents more than one in four American adults who have some type of disability. In addition, the percentage of people living with a disability is highest in the South. Disabilities can be a type of functional disability, cognitive, hearing, visual impairment, or loss of autonomy in many areas of their lives.
3. Only 10,000 guide dog teams are currently working in the United States
While there are no specific numbers available, it is estimated that approximately 10,000 guide dog teams are currently working in the United States. Another frequently cited statistic is that only about 2% of all blind and partially sighted people work with guide dogs. In any case, it is clear that there are not enough assistance dogs for everyone.
Obstacles & Aids to Obtaining a Service Dog
4. It takes an average of 1.5 years to train a service dog
(American Kennel Club)
Training assistance dogs is time-consuming as they require different obedience classes than what is required for a companion dog. Indeed, assistance dogs require specific training to be able to help people with disabilities, and this high level of learning is not achievable in just a few weeks.
5. People in need of a service dog must wait up to 3 years
(American Kennel Club)
Naturally, with so many people with disabilities needing assistance dogs, the demand for these animals far exceeds the supply. And since it is so expensive and time-consuming to train a service dog, and more than half of the applicants fail, it is normal, albeit unfortunate, that the waiting lists are so long.
6. Assistance Dogs International (ADI) placed 4,795 assistance dogs worldwide in 2019
Assistance Dogs International (ADI) is a global coalition of nonprofit programs that train and place assistance dogs. Founded in 1986 from a group of seven small programs, ADI has grown to become the leading authority in the service dog industry. Statistics from assistance dog organizations show that there are currently 133 member programs. Statistics for 2021 are not available, but the organization shows that it placed 4,795 assistance dogs worldwide in 2019.
Costs Related to the Training of Service Dogs
7. The total cost of training a service dog is typically over $40,000
(National Service Animal Registry)
The National Service Animal Registry estimates that purchasing a service dog costs at least $15,000 and can even exceed $50,000. In addition to these upfront costs, many pet owners spend between $500 and $10,000 each year looking after their dogs. These annual expenses cover things like food, vet exams, vaccinations, toys, and additional training. However, there are organizations that can help raise funds or apply for grants for those in need. Unfortunately, these programs usually have long waiting lists, so access to a service dog is not immediate.
8. Hiring a professional assistance dog trainer can cost around $150–$250 an hour
(National Service Animal Registry)
If you can’t afford a service dog, or if you already have a dog and want to have it trained, you can hire a professional trainer. However, be aware that this will cost you between $150 and $250 per hour, but this amount will depend on your dog, what he already knows, the specific tasks he needs to learn, and how much time the trainer can devote to your dog. If your dog has already received obedience training, it may take between 4–6 months to train him well. But many dogs can take up to two years to be fully trained, so ultimately it won’t cost much less than buying a fully trained service dog.
9. More than half of the assistance dog candidates do not complete their training
(American Kennel Club)
While (almost) any breed of dog can become a service dog, this is not an easy job to fill. They must meet exacting standards and prove that they are healthy, well trained, obedient, trustworthy, and more. For this reason, half of the dogs fail this intensive training. However, these dogs can then be offered for adoption to people wishing to offer a second opportunity to these dogs who are, after all, rather well trained.
10. Veterinarian fees while training service dogs cost thousands of dollars
Veterinarian costs run into the thousands of dollars during the training of a service dog, adding to the already steep bill of acquiring such a dog. Fortunately, there are non-profit organizations that can help people in need acquire a service dog.
- Related Read: Types Of Veterinarians & What They Do
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the duties of a service dog?
Service dogs perform a variety of tasks in support of a person’s daily activities for a wide range of disabilities, such as guiding a blind person; alerting a person with a hearing impairment to the presence of a person or sound, such as a telephone or an alarm; pulling a wheelchair; recognize the specific changes that occur during an impending epileptic seizure and alert someone; and, for a person with post-traumatic stress disorder, acting as a barrier between that person and people who come too close.
Various organizations and individuals specialize in training service dogs for the disability-related tasks they have to perform—for example, guide dog schools for the blind. Many of them are well established and post information on their websites about their experience, the types of training offered and, sometimes, the service dog associations of which they are members or have received accreditation.
Are emotional support, therapy, comfort, or companion animals considered service animals under the ADA?
No. These terms are used to describe dogs who provide comfort while being with a person. Because they have not been trained to perform a specific job or task, they are not considered service animals under the law. (ADA)
If someone’s dog calms them when having an anxiety attack, does this qualify it as a service animal?
A distinction is made between psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals. If the dog has been trained to sense that an anxiety attack is about to occur and to take specific action to help avoid the attack or reduce its impact, it would be considered a service animal.
Does a service dog need to be professionally trained?
People with disabilities have the right to train the dog themselves and are not required to use a professional assistance dog training program.
Are service animals in-training considered service animals?
No. Under the ADA, the dog must already be trained before it can be taken to public places. However, some state or local laws cover animals still in training. (ADA)
While they can look and sometimes behave like pets, service dogs are far from it. They are specially trained dogs with the skills necessary for many people with disabilities to gain independence and thrive. Theoretically, any breed of dog can be trained as a service dog. But the cost, intensity, and length of training often push many candidates off the wagon along the way.
You may also be interested in:
- 10 Remarkable Canadian Service Dog and Pet Therapy Statistics to Know
- National Service Dog Month: When to Celebrate
Featured Image Credit:24K-Production, Shutterstock