PEORIA - Service dogs are a big help to their owners, but sometimes families have trouble paying for an animal they'd struggle to live without.
Michelle Kosner knows all about it, she works for Paws Giving Independence.
"We train service dogs for people with disabilities, so today we have some of our newer volunteers out," Kosner said.
Kosner had volunteers walking future service dogs in the supermarket to get them used to certain tasks. But however helpful they are, Kosner said service dogs can be something families struggle to afford.
"Somewhere between $2,000 and $3,000 a year for things like flea prevention, heart worm prevention, for food, for vet care," Kosner estimated.
Laura Van Verst is one of those people who is having a hard time covering the costs.
"People think that it's neat to have a service dog, it's like 'woo' I get to be able to take my pet in public, and it's not that way," Van Verst said.
Van Verst and her dog Rebel are waiting to see the vet. She said unlike a pet that people want, a service dog is something her family needs.
"He comes and gets me when there's a problem with my daughter or if there's a problem with me he will like tug on me," she said.
She said her family racks up medical bills, but not just for themselves, for their dogs too. Rebel is back in the vet's office for a check up after surgery. Van Verst said it's cost that could take the family a while to pay off. She said that's why they go to Brown Animal Hospital in Peoria.
"He doesn't charge us as much as other people and he allows us to carry a balance."
Kosner from Paws Giving Independence said if you're a veteran, a lot of Veterans affairs clinics will help cover service dog costs.
She said for everyone else to call around to different vets. Some give discounted prices to service dog patients.
If you're having trouble feeding your pet, food4paws is an organization that can help.
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