What are service dogs? Service dogs are canines specifically trained to help people with disabilities in performing everyday activities. People with hearing and visual impairments, mental disorders, mobility impairments or other diseases enjoy great benefit from service dogs.
The most common dog breeds used by trainers and breeders are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers, but any other dog of a different breed can become a service dog with proper training. Service dogs are also referred to as assistance dogs, and there is also a special term for dogs helping blind people, they are called ‘seeing eye dogs’.
The first service dogs were German Shepherds trained to assist soldiers during the First World War. Nowadays, the training starts when the puppies are only a few weeks old and can last up to a couple of months, or even years. Every service dog is intentionally trained to perform tasks that are important for the service it will provide and the person’s needs it will address.
People owning service dogs enjoy couple forms of tax relief. This goes when a person with a certain form of physical disability decides to buy, train and maintain a service animal. Expenses for food, veterinary care, and grooming are lower as well.
The ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists) initiated a national event starting in May 2008 that offers free eye-screening examinations for service dogs performed by certified veterinary ophthalmologists in North America.
What are the laws and requirements regarding service dogs? Service dogs can be trained by the owners or trainers or can be bought by breeders that train and sell service dogs. In the US, there are no federal laws for service dog certification. However, there are options to register your pet as a service dog and have to get some sort of certification for those in doubt.
May – Eye examination month
The well-being of people with physical impairments depends on service dogs and screening eye examinations help detect early-stage ocular diseases when the treatment is most successful. The national service dog eye examination month is a philanthropic event provided by certified members of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.
All actively working service animals can be registered at www.ACVOeyeexam.org and get their free appointment. The screenings are performed in animal eye care clinics throughout the USA, Canada, and Puerto Rico. The only condition is for the animal to be certified by certain national, regional or local organization. You can visit the website for more information on how to find the closest facility where you will schedule an appointment.
The goal of this event is to perform as many eye exams as possible, free of charge, and support good ocular health for service animals. Approximately 7.000-8.000 free eye exams are performed each year during the month of May, and the professionals are expecting for the numbers to rise. The professionals performing the exams are dedicated specialists that have understanding for their clients and patients and will provide the best possible care, so if you or someone you know owns a service dog, don’t hesitate to register!
Happy National Service Doy Eye Examination Month!