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Free Eye Examinations in May for All Service Animals

Free eye examinations for all service animals throughout the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico will be provided throughout the month of May 2012, thanks to the 5th Annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event. The event will honor the dogs who selflessly serve the public — search and rescue dogs, guide dogs, detection dogs and handicapped assistance dogs.

service dogs with free eye exams
Credit: Istockphoto / Terry J. Alcorn

The free eye examinations are served by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO), who will be  launching their 5th annual ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event.  Over 200 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico will provide free sight-saving eye exams to thousands of eligible service animals.

Registration for service animal owners and handlers begins April 1, 2012. Reminders for the event can be emailed to interested parties by contacting .

Since the program launched in 2008, more than 10,500 service animals have been examined. In addition to dogs, other service animals including horses and even a service donkey named Henry who was adopted with a female named Honeybun. Henry is a male burro who travels thousands of miles with Young’s Funny Farm (a home for therapy animals) to visit hospitals, nursing homes, rehabilitation centers and special needs facilities to help bring a smile to patients.

A few months prior to the 2011 event, his owner discovered he had an eye injury which ultimately stole his sight in one eye. His free eye exam in May 2011 was to ensure that his other eye is working just fine and he will be able to continue his mission of helping others.

Veterinary Ophthalmologists and the eye exam

The veterinary ophthalmologists look for things like redness in the eyes, squinting, cloudy corneas, retinal disease, serious abnormalities and early cataracts. The quality of work the service dogs do requires early detection and treatment in eye conditions.

“Our hope is that by checking their vision, 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, in a personal press release sent to Way Cool Dogs.

Some of the groups who have served the  ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event over the past four years 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
  • Individual service dog owners and handlers who rely on these amazing animals daily.
service dogs free eye exams
Credit: Nancy Houser

 Registering for the eye exams in May 2012

In order for a service animal to qualify for a free eye exam, it must be an “active working animal,” certified by a formal training program or organization,  or 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, 2012 at  Registration ends on April 30th.

Once the animal is registered online, the owner or trainer will receive a registration number. This allows the animal to access to a list of participating ophthalmologists in their area; the owner or trainer needs to 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.

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists

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"Large superficial corneal ulcer in a Cocker Spaniel stained with fluorescein," via Wikipedia

The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists® is an approved veterinary specialty organization of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties. It is also recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

The mission of the organization is to  “to advance the quality of veterinary medicine through certification of veterinarians who demonstrate excellence as specialists in veterinary ophthalmology.”

A  candidate must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, a one year internship, a three year approved residency and pass a series of credentials and examinations, in order to become board certified.

The sponsors of the ACVO/Merial National Service Dog Eye Exam Event include:

  • Merial
  • Ocu-Glo Rx Canine Vision Supplement
  • Welch Allyn
  • Aventix
  • Eye Care for Animals
  • Many non-profit supporters including the American Veterinary Medical Association
  • Most state veterinary medical associations in the U.S. and Canada, American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives
  • National service animal organizations

About Merial

Merial Health Company  is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company that provides a comprehensive range of products. They enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 5,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2010 sales were more than $2.6 billion. Merial is the animal health division of sanofi-aventis.  For more information, please see



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