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Friday, February 26, 2010

Godspeed Charles Israel

Fifteen-year Oklahoma state Senate employee Charles Israel, who used a Service Dog, suffered a stroke on Tuesday at the capitol. He later died at an Oklahoma City hospital. He was 48.

Charles Israel began work at the Oklahoma State Senate 15 years ago. He was currently employeed as a research analyst and administrator for the Senate's Web site. Israel had muscular dystrophy, used a wheelchair and was assisted by his Service Dog, Hobbes — who was purchased for him through an auction held by his friends and co-workers about a decade ago. Hobbes assisted him at work and home.

The Oklahoma state Senate honored Israel with a moment of silence at the start of Wednesday's session. “Charles epitomized perseverance, courage and dedication in the face of adversity,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn Coffee. “We all mourn his passing, and send our heartfelt condolences to his mother, Norma, and his sisters, Jennifer and Sara.”

Friends and co-workers brought flowers and other items to create a memorial outside his office on the third floor of the capitol.

Instead of donations or flowers, please make donations to Paws with a Cause.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Is the cost of training a Service Dog tax deductible?

Many medical expenses are tax deductible. Any expense that involves prevention, diagnosis, or medical treatment of a physical or mental illness is deductible. Any expense that involves treatment for anything cosmetic is not. We've been asked several times if training for a Service Dog is tax deductible. The answer is: yes! The IRS does allow you to include the costs of buying, training, and maintaining a Service Dog as a medical expense. Please view this on the website.

You are allowed to claim a medical tax deduction for all medical expenses that exceed 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (AGI) for the 2009 tax year. For example, if your AGI is over $40,000, then you would have to pay more than $3000 in medical expenses during the year to qualify. Also, you can only deduct the amount that is in excess of the 7.5%. So, using the previous example, if you had $4000 in medical expenses, you would be able to deduct $1000 from your taxes.

Please note: Of course, we do suggest that you consult with a tax professional and do not rely on us as your sole source of tax advice. If you are ever audited, you may be asked to provide proof that your animal is a Service Dog that qualifies under the ADA. If you train your own animal, the best way to do this is by keeping a record of your training either in some kind of a paper log or online web blog — or a video tape of your Service Dog's completion of the Minimum Training Standards for Service and Assistance Dogs and a Public Access Test like the one available at Assistance Dogs International.