Psychiatric Service Dogs

How To Get a Psychiatric Service Dog for Free

Psychiatric service animals can be extremely expensive. If you or someone you know needs a psychiatric service animal, but can’t afford it, you may be wondering what your options are. Here is some information on the cost of a psychiatric service dog and how to potentially get one for free.

What is a Psychiatric Service Dog?

A psychiatric service dog is defined as a dog who is trained to do specific tasks in relation to their owner’s mental health or disability. They are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as necessary medical equipment.  They differ from emotional support animals in that they are trained to do certain tasks, while emotional support animals simply provide comfort through their presence. Emotional support animals also cannot travel with you or go in public with you the way a psychiatric service dog can, because they are only protected by the Fair Housing Act. They also differ from traditional service animals who are trained to do tasks for those with physical disabilities or illnesses.

What Do Psychiatric Service Dogs Do?

Psychiatric service dogs can be trained to do a variety of tasks in relation to your mental illness. These tasks can include reminding you to take your medication at the correct time, waking you up from nightmares, stopping self-harming or OCD behaviors, interrupting PTSD flashbacks, standing on top of you to hit certain pressure points when you are having a panic attack, and more. These dogs must also be trained to be calm and well behaved, even in chaotic and loud environments, such as airports.

How Do You Qualify for a Psychiatric Service Dog?

In order to qualify for a psychiatric service dog, you must be officially diagnosed with a mental illness or disability by a certified mental health or medical professional. This professional must then evaluate your condition and need for a service animal and write you a service animal letter of certification. This letter verifies your diagnosis and your need for a service animal. You qualify for a psychiatric service dog with any level of anxiety, or other mental illness if it is limiting your ability to live your life day to day.

What Does a Psychiatric Service Dog Cost?

Though costs vary greatly depending on breed, level of training, and geographic location, psychiatric service dogs generally cost between $15,000-$30,000. The reason for this high cost is due to the extensive amount of training these dogs must go through. Training can take two years before a dog is fully ready to go to work for their new owner.

How Can You Get a Psychiatric Service Dog for Free?

There are non-profit organizations that can help cover this cost or provide more affordable options. If cost is an obstacle to you, it may be worth investigating some of these options, or see how much your insurance will cover. However, if you go through a non-profit organization to get your dog, you may have a long waiting period to get your dog.

You could also get grant money to get a service dog. There are many reputable organizations which offer grant money to those seeking service dogs.


NEADS is a highly reputable organization with a long history in the service dog industry. Although the service dog’s cost is free, each client must agree to fundraise $8,000 with the help of NEADS fundraising kits and resources. NEADS offers service dogs for children, veterans, and adults who are hearing impaired.

Patriot Paws

Patriot Paws work with military veterans to connect them with the right service dog to help with their disability at no cost. Although all veterans may apply, priority goes to Desert Storm veterans.

Paws with a Cause 

Paws with a Cause is a non-profit which operates through public donations. Service dog applicants pay a nominal fee to apply for a service dog. If approved, service dogs are provided at no cost. To qualify, applicants must have a physical disability, seizure disorder, a hearing impairment, or have a child with autism.

One of these organizations may be able to help you on your journey to getting an affordable psychiatric service dog.

Train Your Service Dog Yourself

Another affordable option is to train your service animal yourself. Your ability to do this will depend heavily on how difficult the tasks you need your psychiatric service to do are. You must not only train your service animal to do tasks in relation to your mental disability or health struggle, but also to be calm in all environments. Training a dog to be calm even in airports or loud chaotic places like concerts can be very challenging, especially if you don’t know what you are doing. One option is to work with a professional dog trainer, who can provide both you and your dog what you need to be successful.

In conclusion, there are many options to make getting a psychiatric service dog more affordable. These resources include health insurance, reaching out to non-for profits, getting grant money, working with a professional dog trainer, or training a dog yourself. The first step however is to get a psychiatric service dog letter of certification. You can get one by talking to our experts at United Support Animal today at 800-918-3151 or by taking our pre-screening test.