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Garden State Veterinary Specialists Gears Up For 8th Year of Free Service Animal Eye Exams Program

Thursday, April 23, 2015

In the spring of 2012, Jenine Stanley and her dog, Swap, participated in the ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam Event just as they had each year since the program’s inception in 2008. It again took place in a participating ophthalmologist’s office, but this time ‘Swap’ was diagnosed with Pigmentary Uveitis, a condition that would affect his vision later in his career.

“The wonderful veterinary ophthalmologists saw him every six months thereafter and we monitored the condition for changes,” said Stanley. “Had I not gone to the event and had Swap's eyes checked, the condition could have become much worse, including painful inflammation. I also would not have known what to look for in terms of changes in his work and how his actual vision is affected.”

Swap’s story is just one amongst hundreds, where this screening process has helped these amazing Service Animals and their owners manage or overcome a previously undiagnosed ophthalmic condition. 2015 marks the 8th Annual ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam Event. Since its inception in 2008 over 30,000 Service Animals have received free screening eye exams, over 7,000 in 2014 alone. In the beginning, the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist’s ® (ACVO®) public relations chair, Dr. Bill Miller, recognized the good that was already being done by many members; the majority of whom already provided similar free exams across the country. He, too, employed such a program in his clinics, but he had a vision to combine and expand these individual events into something with much more of an impact.

The goal of the ACVO/StokesRx National Service Animal Eye Exam Event is to provide as many free screening exams as possible to eligible Service Animals across the U.S. and Canada throughout the month of May. Service Animals include: guide, handicapped assistance, detection, military, search and rescue, and certified-current, registered therapy animals, which all selflessly serve the public. Dr. Kenneth Pierce, an ophthalmologist at Garden State Veterinary Specialists has been participating in this program for several years.

To qualify, Service 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 at 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. GSVS requires that participants meet all event qualifications and provide the assigned registration number over the phone. Times may vary depending on appointment availability and are filled on a first-come, first-served basis, so clients should try to register and make appointments early.

This article is for informational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for the professional advice of your veterinarian.

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