free eye exam for service dogsIf not for the National Service Dog Eye Exam Event, Judy Atwood would have to trust that her dog, Cheerio, is seeing clearly. That's a chance she doesn't have to take, thanks to the free eye checkups supplied by the program. Registration began April 1 around the country and runs through May 16 for owners of certified working dogs. The actual screenings are scheduled throughout May.

The third annual campaign, sponsored by The American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists and the animal pharmaceutical firm Merial, has been a blessing for dog owners such as Atwood, a 65-year-old retiree from Poughkeepsie, N.Y. She uses a wheelchair and relies on Cheerio to perform everyday tasks ranging from carrying her purse, to opening doors, to handing over her credit card. Cheerio's vision has to be spot-on. But the cost of the eye exam by a specialist ($150 to $500) and the expense of a 45-minute ride each way would have been too much, Atwood told WalletPop.

"I simply can't afford it and I am very glad they are doing the exam for free," she said.

Dogs must have completed a formal training program or currently be enrolled in one. You must sign up for the event first before making the appointment. Then you reach out to a participating veterinary ophthalmologist in your area. Appointments will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.

Other details are at the registration site.

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