Guide dogs, assistance dogs, detection dogs, and search-and-rescue dogs rely on their eyes in their daily work. During the month of May, these service dogs are eligible for free eye examinations, courtesy of a program through the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and Merial.
More than 180 veterinary ophthalmologists in the United States, Puerto Rico, and Canada are expected to participate in the fourth annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event.
Early detection and treatment of eye problems are vital to working animals. "Our hope is that by checking their vision, we will be able to help a large number of dogs better assist their human friends," said Stacee Daniel, ACVO executive director.
A sampling of groups served since the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event launched in 2008 include the Transportation Security Administration and military working dogs from Lackland Air Force Base in Texas; an organization providing psychiatric service dogs to soldiers coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan; Puppies Behind Bars; and local fire, rescue, and police agencies. Individual service dog owners and handlers have also been served.
To qualify for a free eye examination, dogs must be active working dogs with certification from a formal training program or be an enrollee in a training program. Other service animals, such as horses and cats, are welcome to participate as long as they meet the stated qualifications.
Owners or agents of service dogs must register via an online registration form. Then they may locate a participating veterinary ophthalmologist and schedule an appointment for May.
The website www.ACVOeyeexam.org provides additional details about the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event. The registration form will be available April 1-April 29.