This May, more than 7,500 Service and Working Animals will receive free sight-saving eye exams in the U.S., Canada 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, Washington.
“It’s super powerful and rewarding,” said Beth Rivard, Executive Director 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, Washington. He also has a retired guide dog with vision issues in his home named Daisy.
“Sight is essential for dogs like Liam,” said Dr. Kice. “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. 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.
The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists is an approved veterinary specialty organization of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties that board certifies veterinarians as ophthalmologists. The organization developed the ACVO/StokesRX National Service Animal Eye Exam Event in 2008, and since its inception, they have provided more than 68,000 free eye exams.
HOW TO REGISTER FOR THE 2019 EVENT:
To qualify, Service and Working Animals must be “active working animals” that have been trained through a formal training program or organization or are currently enrolled in a formal training program. The training organization could be national, regional or local in nature. More qualification details are available here. Owners/agents for the animal(s) must FIRST register the animal via an online registration form beginning April 1 at www.ACVOeyeexam.org. 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. 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.