Psychiatric Service Dogs

What is the Oldest a Service Dog Can Be?

If you or a child in your care needs to get a service animal, you may be wondering what age they have to be before they can get one, and what other qualifications may apply to children. Service dogs can assist with not only physical disabilities, but mental illnesses and disabilities as well. With mental disability and illness, an service animal is called a psychiatric service dog. These are dogs who are trained to do a specific tasks in relation to their owner’s mental illness or disability. Here are some of the common guidelines for children to own a service animal.

Age Limit for Child to Own a Service Animal

The age a child must be before owning a service animal varies by individual state, and also what disability the child has. The age can range from 4-14 depending on these factors. The child’s cognitive and physical ability may also play a role in whether they will be allowed to have a service animal.

Requirements for Child to Own a Service Animal

In order to have a service dog, your child must have had exposure to dogs for at least a 12 months prior to getting a service dog. The child also must be able to handle the service animal on their own in public, or have an adult accompanying them at all times who will be able to handle the service dog. The child must also have a diagnosed physical or mental illness or disability which has been identified by a medical or mental health professional. This professional must then write a letter verifying the diagnoses and the need for the child to have a service animal. The child must also have the consent of their parent or guardian.

Care of Service Animal with Child

The child must be able to care for the service animal or have a parent or guardian who is able to care for the animal full time for them. This includes feeding it, watering it, walking it, cleaning up after it, etc. The family must also have the financial means to provide for the service animal. Many states require a formal interview with the entire family to ensure that the care of the animal will be covered when a child is receiving the animal. Lifestyle of the family will also be considered, as a family living in a small apartment should probably not get a giant husky as their service animal. Parents or guardians may also be required to attend training sessions with their child on how to train and manage a service dog.

In conclusion, the process of getting a service animal for your child will vary greatly from state to state. Your child will need to be officially diagnosed by a medical or mental health professional and that professional will have to write a letter verifying this diagnose and the child’s need for a service animal. Then, the care and keeping of the animal, including day to day tasks, financial responsibility, and lifestyle suitability will need to be confirmed. If you have more questions about getting service dog certification for your child or a child you know, contact our experts at United Support Animal at 800-918-3151 or check out our United Support Animal shop. We also have a pre-screening test you can take now.