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Service dogs can act as “eyes” for people in need, so it’s important their sight is protected, say organizers of a program that provides free exams to dogs who assist people.

That’s why 20 canines received free eye exams Saturday at the BluePearl Veterinary Partners hospital in Southfield.

The dog exams are conducted through an annual program sponsored by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists that aims to help qualified service and working animals each May.

“It is a pleasure to be part of such a large-scale event that honors service dogs and their partners,” said BluePearl’s Dr. Susette Aquino, who is board-certified in veterinary ophthalmology. “Providing free eye exams is a great way of helping these special individuals.”

Among those participating is Debra Kroger of Orchard Lake, a longtime volunteer with Therapy Dogs International who plans to bring her two golden retrievers, Kelsey, 9, and Kailey, 8. The pair have undergone the exams before, and Kroger tells as many other handlers with therapy dogs about the effort.

“It’s wonderful,” she said. “The vets are incredibly kind, very thorough. They’re very gentle with the dogs and they automatically send a report, so my vet automatically knows what the result is.”

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