Peach has been home for a little longer than one month and I couldn’t be happier to fill you in on her adventures as a service dog puppy in training. I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to get a service dog so I wanted to post about what the process was like to adopt and train Peach…

Am I eligible?

Getting a service dog for psychiatric reasoning is extremely difficult in Ontario which is what lead to the fundraiser #BringPeachHome. Since psychiatric service dogs are in such high demand the waiting lists can be long with an average of about two years. The waiting list can be several times longer depending on your diagnoses. Many not-for-profits sadly don’t want to give out service animals for psychiatric patients due to the lasting stigma of violence, however, people who struggle from mental illness are much more likely to get abused than to resort to any violence and are 11x more likely to be victims of violence than a general person. PTSD is usually the diagnoses that receive service animals with the least amount of resistance and it is much more likely if you are a veteran but the waiting lists are still long.

Anybody with a chronic disability is eligible for a service dog, however, people tend to confuse “service dog” with “therapy dog” which are two completely different things. Service dogs have access to anywhere the handler goes while therapy dogs have access to any housing (even if the housing states no pets) and schooling campuses. Click here to read more about the difference between these types of companions. If you suffer from situational anxiety, depression, or any other time-limited mental disorder than you should be getting a therapy dog rather than a service dog. A service dog has specific medical tasks to complete and when someone does not have a chronic disability than the service dog will not receive the proper care, and both physical and intellectual exercise needed for the average length of 10-15 years of companionship.

If you would like to see what resources you have around you with full coverage of a service dog please click here to find the resources closest to you.

Precautions

Do NOT get a service animal to simply allow the dog to go into stores with you…service animals have LIFESAVING jobs to do and if a service animal is not equipped to help your recovery or your illness is not chronic please do not get one…people wait for years for these animals that are worth over $10,000 to people who are usually on government disability support as their sole income. 

It is 100% NOT ok to buy a service animal vest and put it on your dog. You will be putting your dog in danger of euthanasia*, you will be fined $5,000, and you will be putting real service animals and their handlers in danger which could result in serious injury or death. Click here to learn about the possibility of serious injury.

If you distract a service animal you are putting both the animal and its handler in danger with possible outcomes of…
– unconsciousness/slip and falls
– confusion resulting in lost medication, forgetting basic functions such as eating and confusing the animal
– failed seizure warning Click here to see what can happen 
– broken bones, bleeding, and injury
– So much more…

*Euthanasia is possible for your dog if you fake him/her as a service animal and they act inappropriately such as biting, or showing signs of aggression. 

Money

Now that we know the precautions and dangers of having a service dog, let’s dive into the process of getting one. I had to front $8,000 before adopting and training Peach. I live in Ontario, Canada and since I have a chronic disability I am entitled to a certain amount of money per month to help with my living costs, food, medical treatment and care. ODSP is given to those who cannot hold down a career due to their disability, therefore, helping with their quality of life and future treatment. A service dog is technically a medical expense, however, due to the fact that I did not go through a non-profit Peach was not covered by the government. I’m lucky since I am employed by Starbucks Coffee so when I put around 6 months of my ODSP cheque solely to Peach’s training I was still able to feed and house myself. When Peach is certified I will be getting the training fees back within my taxes along with an extra $80/month on my ODSP cheque to help with her living costs.

Medical Documentation

Medical documentation is necessary in the process to get a service dog. You must have 2+ doctors diagnose you with a chronic disability that is recognized within the psychiatric field. You must provide information and documentation on the reasoning for the service dog, specific tasks, financial statements, and be hospital free (inpatient) for several months. Sadly as I mentioned before for a psychiatric service dog diagnoses tend to have a stigma attached which can bump you or remove you from a waiting list. I suggest getting another doctors note declaring both you and your dogs safety are guaranteed. I would suggest getting (or trying to get) ODSP since you will be provided with the service dog benefit which takes away some of the financial stress. ODSP entitles you to a service animal, however, the medical documentation must be provided before adoption. Each service dog is worth around $10,000 to $15,000.

What do I do while Waiting?

This is probably the worst part about getting a service dog, at least when you are preparing documentation you are actively doing something, but waiting is essential when getting a service dog. Not only will you be able to ground yourself from the “high” of getting approved but you will have the ability to prepare yourself for the dog, be it financially, mentally, or physically. It’s important to make 100% sure you can provide your service dog with what he/she needs. Remember, service dogs are still dogs and need exercise, love, playtime, food, and affection. You will also get the opportunity to work on yourself before the dog comes home. I personally adjusted my medication to its optimal dosage, put together both my finances and housing, created a routine for both me and my future service dog, and prepared the house by cleaning, fixing broken sockets & lights, and buying the necessary tools for Peach.

I personally didn’t put myself on a waiting list for Peach but I still waited over 18 months to secure myself in a position for her to be safe and happy in our home along with securing my own safety, happiness, and security. When I was doing this I read over many books, watched lots of Youtube videos, and prepared myself for the beginning training of my puppy service dog, Peach!

I hope that clears up the process of getting a psychiatric service dog a little bit. Please comment below with any questions and feel free to contact me for further information!

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