Free sight-saving exams for working police/service dogs in May
This May, more than 7,500 service and working animals will receive free sight-saving eye exams in Canada, the U.S. and Puerto Rico. The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) developed the annual ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam event as a national platform to address eye health, which is critical for the safety of the animals and their handlers.
Liam, a three-year-old yellow lab service dog, received an eye exam through the program before being placed with Cody, a college student with cerebral palsy. The pair can be found wheeling independently around the University of Washington campus where Liam carries and retrieves books and medical supplies for his handler. Previously Liam was professionally trained and cared for by female inmates for two years through the Prison Pet Partnership, a non-profit which provides meaningful vocational training in Gig Harbor, Wash.
“It’s super powerful and rewarding,” said Beth Rivard, executive director of the Prison Pet Partnership. “The ACVO/StokesRx eye exam program saves so much in providing veterinary care so we can continue to place Service Dogs with no cost to the client while giving back to the community at the same time.”
Ophthalmologist Dr. Nathan Kice has personally provided eye exams through the ACVO’s program for more than 300 service animals, including Liam, in the past nine years at his clinic, Summit Veterinary Referral Center in Tacoma, Wash. He also has a retired guide dog with vision issues in his home named Daisy.
“Sight is essential for dogs like Liam,” Kice said. “It is an absolute feel-good experience to clear a healthy dog and provide peace of mind for their handlers. Early diagnosis is key to treating ocular disease.”
Service and working animals can be registered through the month of April at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. Registration ends on April 30. Once registered online, the owner/agent will receive a registration number and will be allowed access to a list of participating ophthalmologists. 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, so owners/agents are encouraged to register and make appointments early.
Approximately 300 board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists will donate their time and resources to provide free screening exams to qualified dogs, horses, miniature horses, donkeys, alpacas and cats. Active working animals include: guide, hearing assistance, drug detection, police/military, search and rescue, therapy and disability assistance animals trained through a formal program.