Montreal

Quebec doubling financial aid for guide, service dog users

“The dogs, they have to be fed, they have to be maintained, they have to be groomed, so this is a little surplus to allow the owners to take of that,” said CAQ MNA Éric Lefebvre, who serves as chief government whip.

The maximum will be set at $2,240 a year starting Jan. 1, up from $1,028

This is the first time since 2004 that the financial aid for owners of guide and service dogs has been reviewed. (Karine Mateu/Radio-Canada)

Starting Jan. 1, the maximum amount of financial aid provided to Quebecers who use guide or service dogs will more than double.

The Quebec government will set the maximum at $2,240 a year, up from $1,028.

"The dogs, they have to be fed, they have to be maintained, they have to be groomed. So this is a little surplus to allow the owners to take of that," said MNA Éric Lefebvre, chief whip of the Coalition Avenir Québec government.

In 2017, about 400 people with either visual impairments or with motor difficulties applied for the financial assistance.

Jean Gauvin, the head of an association that represents veterinarians who work with small animals, said the government has taken a step in the right direction.

However, he pointed out many of the dogs tapped to become guide or service dogs are Labernese dogs, a cross between Labradors and Bernese mountain dogs.

Those dogs get pretty big — they can weigh up to 50 kilograms at adult size — and feeding them can be costly. He estimates owners can spend about $3,000 on them every year, and 70 per cent of that is paying for food.

"If the government wanted to do a little more and try to cover [...] most of the costs of owning a large dog like a Mira dog, then it should ideally increase the [maximum] amount by at least $500 or $600 [more] per year," he said.

Dogs for people with ASD still excluded

Nicolas Saint-Pierre, the director general of the Mira Foundation, said there is one clientele the government has forgotten — families with children on the autism spectrum.

They aren't eligible to apply for the financial aid, but they need the dogs as much as those who are eligible for the assistance, he said.

Saint-Pierre says that in 2019 alone, 80 Mira dogs went to families with a child on the spectrum.

Lefebvre wouldn't say whether those families will eventually be able to apply for financial assistance, adding those discussions would have to involve Health Minister Danielle McCann.

Based on a report by Radio-Canada's Alexandre Duval

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