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Animal Attraction: Free, Sight Saving Eye Exams For Service Animals

Animal Attraction:  Free, Sight Saving Eye Exams For Service Animals

by Stacy Fox

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 7:21 AM

Guide dogs, handicapped assistance animals, detection dogs, therapy animals, and
search and rescue dogs selflessly serve the public. To honor these animals and their work, the
American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) is launching the 6th annual
ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event
in the month of May, to screen service
animals who dedicate their lives to serving the public. More than 250 board certified veterinary
ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., as well as Canada and Puerto Rico, will be donating their
time and resources to provide free, sight-saving eye exams to thousands of eligible service animals.  Registration for service animal owners and handlers runs from April 1 - 30, 2013 at

Since the program launched in 2008, nearly 16,000 service animals have been examined. In addition to dogs, other service animals including horses and even a service donkey named Henry have received free sight saving exams.

Watch a short video

Ben, is a black American Field Labrador who can climb a three story ladder, unassisted. Ben’s
eyesight is vital to his job. He is a search and rescue dog from Ventura, CA, that can be called upon
at any time to rescue someone who is alive, during a disaster. Ben’s handler, Eric Darling, has
brought Ben to participate in the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event for two years
in a row. “Catching something early is huge!” says Eric. “This event ensures that we have the
opportunity to get this exam done, with no excuses.”

Quincy, an 8-year-old Golden Retriever, is a mobility service dog. Quincy assists Sandra Ball of
Beltsville, MD a number of different ways, including: helping Sandra up and down the stairs,
opening doors, taking off shoes, pushing buttons and fetching the telephone. Sandra has brought
Quincy to the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event since 2009. During an eye
exam, it was discovered that Quincy had Golden Retriever Uveitis, a serious condition that can result in vision loss. Signs of the disease are not always obvious to the owner, so it can often progress to an advanced stage before affected animals are presented to a veterinary ophthalmologist. “If it were not for this program, I wouldn’t have taken Quincy to an eye exam to begin with,” says Sandra. “This exam meant possibly saving Quincy’s sight!”


During the complete ocular exam, the veterinary ophthalmologists utilize their specialized equipment to look for problems including: redness, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, early cataracts and other serious abnormalities. Early detection and treatment are vital to these working animals. “Our hope is that by checking their vision early and often, we will be able to help a large number of service animals better assist their human friends,” says Stacee Daniel, Executive Director of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.

A sampling of groups served since the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event
launched in 2008 include: Transportation Security Agency (TSA) and military working dogs from
Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, Puppies Behind Bars, an organization providing psychiatric
service dogs to soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan, local fire, rescue and police
agencies, and also individual service animal owners and handlers who rely on these amazing animals


To qualify, animals must be “active working animals” that were certified by a formal training
program or organization or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The certifying
organization could be national, regional or local in nature. Owners/agents for the animal(s) must
FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1, 2013 at Registration ends April 30th. Once registered online, the owner/agent
will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating
ophthalmologists in their area. Then they may contact a specialist to schedule an appointment.
Appointments will take place during the month of May. Times may vary depending on the facility
and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis.


American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists