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Service Dogs for Children with Cerebral Palsy


We’ve discussed several times the immense costs that come along with properly and fully caring for a child with cerebral palsy. A life care plan must include the present and future costs of medical treatment, surgeries, medication, housing modifications, transportation, therapies, education, and adaptive toys. It’s no wonder that settlements and verdicts for cerebral palsy lawsuits reach into the millions and tens of millions.

One item on the life care plan that may raise some eyebrows initially is a canine companion. After a bit of thought, though, a dog is the perfect complement to a child with cerebral palsy. Dogs are already in use for law enforcement, assisting the blind, and even help people prone to seizures. They have many practical uses when paired with children who have cerebral palsy.

Not only do these loyal friends provide companionship, they are specifically trained to help their human owners. Their touch may have a calming effect. Their barks can cause laughter. They can help to perform basic functions, like turning on light switches, pulling a wheelchair or retrieving dropped items. Many children with cerebral palsy have hearing difficulty, and dogs can be trained to respond to specific sounds. Children with service dogs may have increased self-esteem because they no longer have to be solely reliant on other people. Not a small thing, these dogs also make children with disabilities more approachable to those unfamiliar with their disabilities. See Cecily’s story at Helping Paws for a Youngster with Cerebral Palsy.

Some training dog centers will have minimum age limits—7 to 12 is a typical range. Costs for a trained dog can range from $300 to $10,000, depending on the abilities of the dog. Particularly difficult can be the wait time, which may be as long as a few years because of the high demand for these dogs, which are often labs or German shepherds. There is surprisingly little in the way of uniform training and certification, so purchasers should pay close attention to the credentials and references of any trainer they buy from.

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Children with cerebral palsy can live full lives. Their quality of life can be improved, but some of these improvements are costly. For more information about life care plans and the economic costs of caring for a child with cerebral palsy, contact our birth injury attorneys at (440) 252-4399 or online for a free consultation.

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