The Finances of Having a Guide Dog: Tax Deductions and More

Even the Internal Revenue Service has something for guide dogs: it recognizes them as a legitimate medical expense, which can be deducted for federal income tax purposes. (Treas. Reg. § 1.213-1(e)(1)(iii).)

Public Assistance for Service Dogs

Some states assist low-income disabled people with the expenses of keeping a guide, hearing, or service dog. New York and California, for example, give a monthly payment for dog food to owners who qualify. (N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 303-a; Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code § 12553.)

The federal government also may pay for a guide dog for a veteran who is entitled to federal disability compensation. (38 U.S.C. § 1714(b).) The costs paid for may include travel expenses incurred when the veteran goes to pick up the dog from a training center.

Creditors and Service Dogs

Generally, a creditor who has won a lawsuit against a disabled person and is trying to collect the amount of the judgment cannot seize the person's guide, service, or hearing dog to satisfy the judgment. In New York, the dog's food is also exempt. (N.Y. Civ. Prac. Law § 5205(h)(2).) More states prohibit creditors from taking a debtor's "health aids," which should include assistance dogs.

Financial Penalties for Injuries to Service Dogs

A few states apply special laws when a guide dog, or a blind person using a guide dog, is injured. For example, if another dog injures a guide dog, Rhode Island law makes the owner of the guilty dog liable for twice the amount of damages the blind person incurs. If the dog hurts a guide dog or owner again, the tab goes up to three times the amount of damages. (R.I. Gen. Laws § 4-13-16.1.) And in Nevada, anyone who beats or interferes with a service animal may be sentenced to up to six months in jail, fined $100 to $500, or both. (Nev. Rev. Stat. § 426.790.) Some states now apply such laws to all kinds of assistance dogs.

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