CRUZ, Calif. — They provide invaluable services to
their human companions, serving as eyes for the
sightless, performing household tasks for the wheelchair
bound and providing unconditional love for victims of
through the month of May, thousands of service dogs will
receive a service of their own, with ophthalmologists
from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico donating
their time and resources to check for cataracts,
glaucoma and other vision abnormalities.
runs through April 30. More than 250 veterinary
ophthalmologists are participating in the annual event.
Ann Gratzek, who owns the Ophthalmology for Animals in
Santa Cruz, is a member of the American College of
Veterinary Ophthalmologists and has participated in the
yearly event since its inception in 2008. But the
program is little known outside veterinary circles, and
she estimated she’s provided the free, 15-minute exams
to only about 100 animals in the last five years, almost
all of them on dogs.
guess theoretically, there are such things as service
ponies, but I’ve never seen one," said Gratzek,
who’s practiced in Santa Cruz since 1994.
year, she examined a seeing-eye dog suffering from
cataracts, recalling he was serving as his owner’s
eyes all the while.
don’t know that I’d trust him to lead me across the
street," she said, adding the dog eventually was
retired. Asked what drew her to the profession, she said
it allows her to work with and usually help animals both
large and small without having to deal with death.
Schneider, who’s helping to publicize the event,
emphasized that anyone who wants to schedule an exam
should first register on the American College of
Veterinary Ophthalmologists website, www.acvoeyeexam.org.
The site also contains a list of participants.
the organization put together the first event, more than
160 American and Canadian ophthalmologists provided
exams to roughly 1,500 animals, according to its
website. The number of participants has grown each year
since, and nearly 16,000 service animals have now
received free exams, Schneider said. The majority of
animals seen are handicap/disability assistance dogs,
followed by therapy animals, then military/public
service dogs, according to ACVO.