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Reference Desk January 2013

Service Animals to Receive Free, Sight Saving Eye Exams

    January 8, 2013 — 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 www.ACVOeyeexam.org.

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

    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!”

    WHAT VETERINARY OPHTHALMOLOGISTS LOOK FOR DURING THE EXAM:

    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 daily.

    HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE 2013 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, 2013 at www.ACVOeyeexam.org  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.

    Source: Fetching Com

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