The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) is gearing up for the 7th Annual National Service Animal Eye Exam Event this May. Established in 2008, this wonderful program has helped nearly 22,000 service animals.
Though the program focuses primarily on service dogs, other species have benefited from the program also, including several horses and even one service donkey (named Henry).
The program provides a sight-saving examination free of charge for eligible service animals. Eligible animals include those that perform guide duties and handicapped assistance. Detection, military, search and rescue, and registered therapy animals are also eligible. Examinations are performed by veterinary ophthalmologists certified by the ACVO. These doctors are specially trained to detect and treat eye disease and all are experts in the field. More than 250 board certified veterinary ophthalmologists throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will donate their time and resources to this event.
Why are eye examinations so important to these animals? Good eyesight is essential to these animals in the performance of their duties. Early detection and treatment of disease is essential in giving these animals the opportunity to help as many people as possible.
“Catching something early is huge! This event ensures that we have the opportunity to get this exam done, with no excuses” says Eric Darling, whose black American Field Labrador Ben is a search and rescue dog from Ventura, California. Ben is called to rescue the living during the course of a disaster. He can climb a three-story ladder, unassisted. Knowing that Ben’s eyesight is vital to his job, Eric has brought Ben to participate in the ACVO National Service Animal Eye Exam Event for three years in a row.
The event is sponsored by ACVO and generous industry sponsors. Other non-profit supporters that endorse the event include the American Veterinary Medical Association, most state veterinary medical associations in the U.S. and Canada, the American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives, and other national service animal organizations.
How can a handler register his/her animal for the event? 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. Registration ends April 30. 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, which 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.