There are times when even the most devoted caregivers need a little TLC—even furry ones with four legs. May is National Service Animal Eye Examination Month, and Animal Vision Center of Virginia will perform free eye screenings for local service animals in May for owners who schedule an appointment before April 30.

“People with hearing, visual and mobility impairments and mental health conditions enjoy the vast benefits of having service dogs assist them with daily living,” said Dr. Heather Brookshire, a board-certified animal ophthalmologist and owner of Animal Vision Center of Virginia. “Their well-being depends on these animals, and screening eye examinations help detect early-stage ocular diseases.”

In addition to helping people with daily living tasks, service and working dogs also help police and military units sniff out drugs, assist in search-and-rescue operations and comfort patients in therapeutic scenarios. Brookshire and her staff occasionally perform screenings offsite. Over the years they have examined police dogs and patrol horses with the City of Virginia Beach Police and Sheriff’s Departments and the horses of Untamed Spirit, a local therapeutic and educational riding program.

Eye Screening Qualifications

Supported by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO), the free eye screenings are performed by ACVO diplomates, like Brookshire, who volunteer their time, staffing and facilities for the screenings. The promotion requires that service animals be active working animals, certified by a formal training program or organization or currently enrolled in a formal training program.

If service dog owners can’t spare the time for the free screenings in May, Brookshire says not to worry. “We are happy to offer these free screening appointments year-round for qualified service animals,” Brookshire said.

Dr. Brookshire performs an eye exam on CeCe at Untamed Spirit

Animal Vision Center of Virginia has practices in Chesapeake and Virginia Beach. For details about the free service animal eye screenings, call 757-749-4838.

Thanks to WAVY-TV for having Dr. Brookshire on the Hampton Roads Show! What a great opportunity to share information about the National Service Animal Eye Examination Month in May and how service animals play critical roles for the people they serve. Dr. Heather Brookshire also explains how these animals can get a free screening.

Watch the Hampton Roads Show’s full segment featuring Chris Reckling with Dr. Heather Brookshire here or press play on the embedded video below.

Service Animal Facts

  • Since the ACVO launched National Service Dog Eye Examination Month in 2009, diplomates have screened approximately 76,000 service animals through the promotion.
  • Animals seen through the promotion include primarily dogs, but cats, equines and some exotics have also benefited.
  • The most common service dog breeds are German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers, but dogs of different breeds can become a service dog with proper training.
  • The ACVO is an approved veterinary specialty organization that board certifies veterinary ophthalmologists under the charter of the American Board of Veterinary Specialties, the credentialing oversight arm of the American Veterinary Medical Association.