Baillie wants tax relief for those with psychiatric service dogs

April 29, 2016 at 10:15 am

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PCs introduce Service Dogs Tax Credit Act, call on McNeil government to support it

HALIFAX, NS – Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie says the McNeil Liberals should support tax relief for people who rely on a psychiatric service dog.

The Service Dogs Tax Credit Act creates a $250 direct tax rebate for Nova Scotians who, through a medical diagnosis and treatment plan, rely on a service dog. It is one part of the Progressive Conservative plan for better mental health services in the province.

Jamie with Service Dogs
“Service dogs can have a profound and lasting impact on the lives of those dealing with mental illness and help them live fuller and healthier lives,” says Baillie. “These animals are part of a medical treatment plan and we recognize there are costs associated with caring for them. We are proud to introduce this bill in the legislature today and want the Liberal government to act.”

Symptoms associated with many mental health issues including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, panic disorders and severe depression can be isolating and debilitating. Service dogs can be trained to help each person in their unique challenges.

Medric Cousineau is a retired captain of the Canadian military who suffers from PTSD. Over the years, he has battled night terrors, severe isolation and depression. He founded Paws Fur Thought, a non-profit organization dedicated to pairing trained service dogs with veterans suffering from PTSD.

“Unfortunately, there still exists various forms of discrimination and service dog issues are no exception,” says Cousineau. “There are clear issues in the tax code and this move is a step in the right direction toward gaining equality of psychiatric service dogs with service dogs who assist with other types of disabilities.”

Kim Cavanaugh is a vet technician and a proud member of the Maritime Specialty Service Dogs Society. Having completed the Cloverfield Specialist Trainer Program, Cavanaugh trains service dogs using modern, positive and scientifically-based methods of training.

Cavanaugh also has her own service dog, TJ, who helps her to manage her own battle with depression and anxiety.

“TJ gives me the support I need to work and live my life,” says Cavanaugh. “With him by my side, I am able to handle my mental illness in a productive way that not only lets me live my life, but also contribute to my community. She has changed my life.”

Neither Cousineau nor Cavanaugh are able to access the federal tax benefits for their service dogs. This Nova Scotia tax rebate is designed to help with medically-necessary service dogs who fall outside the current federal eligibility requirements.

Baillie has written to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau encouraging him to review the medical expenses credit and include psychiatric service dogs as an allowable medical expense claim.

The Maritime Specialty Service Dogs Society is hosting a fundraising event to assist in training the five service dogs currently in their program. The event will take place at Shooters Bar & Grill in Enfield on Saturday, April 30 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. For more information, visit www.maritimeservicedogs.org.