Can I Claim My Emotional Support Dog on my Taxes?

January 13, 2024 - Friendly Tax Expert

As a dog owner, you may be wondering whether your pet qualifies for a tax deduction.

You love your dog so much and in your view, it's emotionally supporting you, does that not count for something?

Can you deduct the costly vet bills and pet supplies on your tax return?

While every pet owner would probably rejoice at being able to claim their furry friend as a tax deduction, the reality is that only certain types of animals can be claimed on taxes.

While emotional support animals (ESA) can provide comfort and companionship, the tax benefits associated with them can be limited.

When it comes to claiming your emotional support dog on your taxes, there are some factors to consider.

Read on to find out whether you can claim your beloved pet dog on your taxes and what you can claim as a deduction.

What is an Emotional Support Animal?

First and foremost, let's define what an emotional support animal is.

An emotional support animal is a pet that provides comfort and companionship to individuals suffering from mental or emotional conditions.

Let's say you're always stressed out at work and your doctor has recommended getting a pet dog to help you cope with these emotions.

In this case, your dog can be considered an emotional support animal.

Or perhaps you have a cat that helps you feel better whenever you cuddle it.

Those animals are emotionally supporting  you just by being there for you.

Can I claim my emotional support dog on my taxes?

Generally, no.

Emotional support animals typically do not qualify for a tax deduction.

The IRS distinguishes between service animals and emotional support animals.

And your dog has to be considered a service animal as per the American Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to be claimed on your taxes.

You may be wondering...

How do emotional support animals differ from service animals?

Service animals are animals that are trained to do a specific task for a person with a disability.

For instance, guide dogs for individuals with visual impairments are considered service animals.

Dogs who alert their deaf owners to sounds are also considered service animals.

To qualify as a service animal, it is necessary for you to have a documented disability or medical condition for which your dog provides assistance with managing the associated symptoms.

The tasks that service animals perform must also be directly related to your disability or condition.

On the other hand, emotional support animals are not trained to perform specific tasks and therefore do not meet the requirements for a tax deduction.

They simply provide emotional support and comfort to their owners through their presence.

If your emotional support animal is not a service animal, there are other instances that you can still claim tax deductions.

There are tax deductions for performance animals, animals that are part of a business expense, performance animals, and working animals.

If your emotional support dog does not fall into any of these categories, it is unlikely that you will be able to deduct their expenses on your taxes.

However, there are certain situations where you may be able to claim tax deductions for your emotional support animal.

Read on to find out the exception...

Man walking with his dog

Is my emotional support dog a service dog?

There are some instances when an emotional support animal may be considered as a service dog and therefore can be claimed on taxes.

If your emotional support dog meets certain conditions established by the IRS for it to be considered a service animal, then you may be eligible for a tax deduction.

Again, one of the main criteria is that your dog must be trained to perform tasks or services specifically related to your disability.

However, this needs to be documented and approved by a licensed mental health professional for it to be considered.

For instance, if you're suffering from PTSD or panic disorder...

If your emotional support animal is trained to sense when you are about to have an episode and take specific actions to help you calm down or manage the symptoms, then they may qualify as a service animal.

The dog's tasks must be directly linked to  your disability and must be considered necessary for you to function in your daily life.

Usually, a medical professional recommended that you get the dog as a response to your health condition.

In this case, your emotional support dog may serve as both an emotional support animal and a service animal.

Therefore, they can be claimed on your taxes as a medical expense.

It's important to note that the IRS has specific guidelines for what qualifies as a medical expense.

If you have a diagnosed mental or physical condition that requires a service animal, you might have additional medical expenses that are eligible for deduction.

In order to deduct these expenses from your taxes, they must exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

To claim expenses associated with a service animal, it is crucial to itemize deductions rather than opting for the standard deduction.

Therefore, it is advantageous to deduct service pet expenses only if your total itemized deductions surpass the standard deduction.

Woman taking care of her dog

What expenses are tax-deductible if I have a service dog?

If the IRS recognizes your pet as a service animal, you may be eligible to deduct various expenses associated with your pet.

These expenses may include food, grooming, pet insurance, training, the cost of purchasing the animal, food and veterinary care.

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