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MERIDIAN, ID (January 10, 2013) — Guide horses, mounted patrol horses, 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

Since the program launched in 2008, nearly 16,000 service animals have been examined!

Cali is a female guide horse that has changed the life of Mona Ramouni, a young woman who has been blind since birth. Before Cali, I was always with my parents and I never even walked alone in my backyard. I couldn’t even locate my house,” says Mona, who lives in Williamston, MI.

“Because of Cali, my whole world has changed. I went away to school and I’m getting my Ph.D. Cali is not just a horse to me. She has opened up my world and changed my life in ways I never could have conceived of, before her,” adds Mona.

Cali went for her complimentary eye exam during the event last year and got a clean bill of health. “I would say that every single person needs to do this,” says Mona. “It is crucial and I can’t recommend it more. I’m training three other horses and I’m hoping to get them examined this year.”


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: Mounted Patrol from several states, 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.


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 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.

About the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists
The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists® is an approved veterinary specialty organization of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, and is recognized by the American Veterinary Medical Association. Its mission is “to advance the quality of veterinary medicine through certification of veterinarians who demonstrate excellence as specialists in veterinary ophthalmology.” To become board certified, a candidate must complete a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree, a one year internship, a three year approved residency and pass a series of credentials and examinations.

The event is primarily sponsored by ACVO and Merial. Other non-profit supporters include the American Veterinary Medical Association, most state veterinary medical associations in the U.S. and Canada, American Society of Veterinary Medical Association Executives, and other national service animal organizations.

About Merial
Merial is a world-leading, innovation-driven animal health company, providing a comprehensive range of products to enhance the health, well-being and performance of a wide range of animals. Merial employs approximately 5,600 people and operates in more than 150 countries worldwide. Its 2011 sales were more than $2 billion ($2.8 billion). Merial is a Sanofi company. For more information, please see

Media Inquiries:
For more information, photos and interviews with Stacee Daniel, Executive Director of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists or to speak with a participating veterinary ophthalmologist, or service dog handler, please contact Audrey Strong at 877-703-3824 x107 or

Pictured left: Mona gives Cali a treat while shopping. Pictured right: Mona and Cali getting into a van.

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