Working Dog Center Team

About Us


Our Mission

Transforming global health and safety

Our Vision

To be the premier center of excellence for working dog-driven science and education

Our Goals

  • To serve as a consortium to unite programs that employ detection dogs to benefit society throughout the US and around the world.
  • To collect and analyze genetic, behavioral and physical data; and integrates the latest scientific information in order to optimize the success and well-being of detection dogs.
  • To prepare for future demands and facilitate research by developing a detection dog breeding/training program that will implement, test, and disseminate the knowledge gained.

Working Dog Center

Meet Our Team

What makes the Penn Vet Working Dog Center a very special place is our team – a unique combination of people with a broad range of expertise. Get to know our core team. Come visit the Center and get a sense of the place.

  • Cindy Otto, DVM, PhD, DACVEC, DACVSMR, CCRT

    Executive DirectorDr Cindy Otto and Working Dog Blitz

    cmotto@upenn.edu

    Dr. Otto is a tenured associate professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, after 23 years as an attending clinician in the Emergency Service, in 2015 she transitioned to full-time Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dogs Center and Canine Sports Medicine clinician. Dr. Otto is board-certified in both veterinary emergency and critical care and veterinary sports medicine.

    She has been involved in disaster medicine as a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 from 1994 to 2010 and Veterinary Medical Assistance Team – 2 from 1999 to 2016. She began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue dogs in October of 2001 after serving as a first responder for the 9/11 attacks. This work inspired her to establish the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the premier national research and development program for detection dogs.

    Her research program has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the American Heart Association, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery, Morris Animal Foundation, Kleberg Foundation, Kaleidoscope of Hope and other foundations. She has published over 60 articles in peer reviewed journals, authored over 10 book chapters and lectured nationally and internationally on Emergency Medicine, Disaster Medicine and Working Dogs.

    She was named Pennsylvania’s 2002 “Veterinarian of the Year” and received an Alumni Recognition Award in 2006 and the OSU Distinguished Alumus Award in 2008 from the Ohio State University. The Philadelphia Kennel Club named her “Dog’s Best Friend” in 2016. Dr. Otto was also the recipient of the 2018 AVMA Bustad Companion Animal of the Year Award.

    She has been involved in dog sports (flyball, agility, and tricks), and also provides pet therapy in the Philadelphia area, with her rescued Bichon mix, Dolce.

    Advisory Positions

    • USAR Veterinary Group – 2007 - present
    • Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team Board 2010-present
    • US Special Operations Command Committee on Canine Tactical-Combat Casualty Care 2010 - 2012
    • Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthoganol Detector Guidelines 2011-2014
    • NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Dogs and Sensors Subgroup 2014-present
    • Advisory Committee for The Center for Animal and Human Relationships (CENTAUR) VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine 2012-2016
    • Hand2Paw – Board member 2012-present
  • Vicki Berkowitz

    Associate DirectorVickiEloise

    vickibe@upenn.edu

    Vicki is a graduate of The George Washington University with a BA in Communications. She joined the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in 2013 as our Associate Director after spending 11 years with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) where she had key leadership roles with Regional, Divisional and National teams. Vicki not only managed relationships with National sponsors and events, but guided District teams through management of budgets, strategic business plans, and staff development.

    Vicki’s career background prior to joining the MDA included helping build executive and leadership teams for high-tech start-up companies for a retained search firm as well as working in the brokerage industry where she worked with a Midwest based financial firm to help them enhance operational efficiency and overall industry compliance.

    Vicki is an avid hiker and is slowly working her way through the Appalachian Trail.
  • Annemarie DeAngelo, MAS

    Training DirectorADeAngelo, Rebelion-Left, Waya-Right

    adeang@upenn.edu

    Major Annemarie DeAngelo retired from the New Jersey State Police in January of 2012, concluding a distinguished thirty-one year career.

    She was assigned to patrol, canine, investigation and administration before rising to the command staff positions of Executive Officer in the Homeland Security Branch and Field Operations “Troop C” Commanding Officer.

    Annemarie was the founder and architect of the New Jersey State Police Canine Unit. She began training dogs for obedience and personal protection under the guidance of a military canine trainer in 1980. That experience steered her law enforcement career and she became the first NJSP narcotic dog (Buddy) handler.

    For the next 13 years she served in the Canine Unit as a handler, trainer, and ultimately unit leader. She earned trainer certifications from both the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office and the United States Police Canine Association. She is an active canine trial judge and advocate for law enforcement and civilian canine organizations.

    Annemarie and her canine partner “Buster” were awarded the National Detector Dog “Case of the Year” for an investigation and scent detection that led to the seizure of 1,200 kilograms of cocaine concealed in a tractor trailer.

    She was also the recipient of the prestigious “Gene Catre Memorial Award” presented by The College of New Jersey Criminal Justice Department for career contributions to the law enforcement community.

    Annemarie earned her Masters of Administrative Science degree from Fairleigh Dickinson University where she also earned a graduate certification in School Security and Safety Administration. 

  • Bess J. Pierce, DVM, DABVP, DACVIM, DACVSMR

    Adjunct Associate Professor of Canine Performance Sciences & Rehabilitation
    Bess Pierce, DVM, Working Dog Center

    Dr. Pierce has been involved with planning, opening and developing programs at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center since 2009 and was appointed as Adjunct Faculty at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine in 2017.  She also holds a full time faculty position as Associate Professor of Small Animal Internal Medicine and Canine Sports Medicine at Lincoln Memorial University College of Veterinary Medicine in Tennessee.

    Dr. (Colonel) Pierce also serves in the US Army Veterinary Corps, where her passion for working dogs began with her first assignment in 1992. Since that time she has been honored to serve working dogs, soldiers and family members around the world in both the active duty and reserve components.

    Dr. Pierce is board-certified by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine and the American College of Veterinary Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation.  She is currently enrolled in the Master’s program in Fitness and Wellness Leadership at SUNY Plattsburgh, and her primary research interests are in canine sports medicine and comparative athletic conditioning and injury prevention. She has received five US Army Meritorious Service Medals, the Order of Military Medical Merit, the 2015 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award given by the American Veterinary Medical Association, and the 2018 Zoetis Teacher of the Year award at LMU.

    In her free time, Dr. Pierce enjoys spending time with her veterinarian husband and two dogs traveling, hiking and kayaking.

  • Pat Kaynaroglu

    Training ManagerPat Kaynaroglu, Working Dog Center

    pkay@upenn.edu

    Pat graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a B.A. in Special Education. She began training search and rescue dogs after discovering them with one of her special needs students.

    She has partnered with working dogs in her special education classrooms ever since and received the Teacher of the Year award from the Kids in Need Foundation in 2010 for the Cody Project, which teaches middle and high school students the skills necessary to train search and rescue canines.

    Pat has been a search and rescue handler since 1992. She has participated in over 400 search and rescue missions as a handler, as an Incident Commander, and as Planning & Operations Coordinator with a specialty in managing K9 operations. She has certified three Disaster Search Canines, three Human Remains Detection & Water Search canines, and four Wilderness Search Canines.

    Pat is currently a Canine Search Specialist with Pennsylvania Task Force 1 and is a national Instructor and Evaluator with FEMA for live-find and HRD.  She served with Lake County Search and Rescue in Colorado from 2002- 2012 and currently serves with the Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance & Rescue Squad K9 Unit with her live find canine Rip and HRD canine Pacy.

    Pat and her husband Hakan, who is also a FEMA Canine Search Specialist, founded Emergency Response K9 in 2000 and helped establish the Disaster Search Dog Program in Turkey. They conduct search dog trainings, evaluations, and seminars as well as raise funds to support the purchase of working dogs. Pat and Hakan love the outdoors, skiing in Colorado, and spending time with theirfamily.

  • Bob Dougherty

    Law Enforcement Training CoordinatorBob Dougherty, Working Dog Center

    rodou@upenn.edu

    Bob Dougherty retired after 31 years with the Cheltenham Township Police Department in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, 28 of those years were spent as a dual purpose K9 handler and eventually the specialized units trainer.

    Bob and his three canine partners graduated from the Philadelphia Police K9 Academy between 1988 and 2014.  Bob is a long-time member of the United States Police Canine Association (USPCA) and the Editor of their publication “Canine Courier”. Bob has certified all of his partners in numerous police dog trials and certifications to include one USPCA National Police Dog 1 (PD1) field trial. 

    Bob is a certified USPCA Regional Patrol Trainer and Detector Trainer, Regional Judge for PD1, National Detector Judge, and has attended numerous training seminars to include several decoy seminars over the years to learn how to “help” both dogs and handlers be their best. 

    Open to all types of training styles and philosophies for the betterment of training police dogs, as well being open to training styles from various police, sport and civilian dog trainers, Bob’s personal moral code is to never be cruel in the training of dogs in general, and specifically in training police working dogs.

    Bob’s approach is one that first looks at each dog as individualistic, focuses on establishing a solid foundation of training those basic skills necessary for young dog’s to be successful, and to remove the conflict which can occur between a dog and handler due to harsh and often premature physical corrections. Bob believes that trainers need to be actively involved with training dogs, and not just sitting back evaluating from afar.                

  • Meghan Ramos, VMD

    Research FellowDr. Meghan Ramos, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    megramos@vet.upenn.edu

    Dr. Ramos is a veterinarian and research fellow at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, she began her Master’s Degree in Translational Medicine through the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine’s Masters in Translational Research program.

    Dr. Ramos began her career in the working dog world with the WDC in 2012, after which she piloted several odor detection research studies and was an integral part in the training and protocol development of our medical detection program.

    She is well versed in training of odor work, agility, obedience, and apprehension. Meghan has fostered and trained WDC graduate, Mizu, who is now a narcotics detection canine officer.

  • Jennifer Essler, PhD

    Postdoctoral Research FellowDr. Jenny Essler, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    esslerj@vet.upenn.edu

    Dr. Essler received her B.A. in Psychology from Georgia State University and her M.Sc. in Animal Behavior from Bucknell University.

    Her earlier work was on cognition and social behavior in non-human primates, focusing on capuchin monkeys. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria, where she studied the effects of domestication on cooperation and inequity aversion in pack-living dogs and wolves.

    Her interests center around how we can quantify the training of working dogs, and how we can use this to improve the training process, resulting in better working dogs. At the Working Dog Center, she runs the research side of everything, including work on scent detection, behavioral development, antiquities detection, and ovarian cancer research.

  • Sara Bell, DVM, ULAR Veterinarian

    Research FellowDr. Sara Bell, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    sarabell@vet.upenn.edu

    Dr. Bell is a veterinarian and research fellow at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. After graduation from Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, she began a residency in Laboratory Animal Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. 

    Dr. Bell has been working in the veterinary field for over 10 years, first as a licensed veterinary technician and then as a veterinarian. She is experienced in providing health care to many different species in a research setting and enjoys the challenge of seeing patients of all shapes and sizes.

    Though Dr. Bell has primarily been a cat owner most of her life, she enjoys spending her days working with the talented dogs of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

  • Danielle Berger

    TrainerDanielle Berger, PV Working Dog Center

    danieb@upenn.edu

    Danielle has been involved in the animal sciences and animal rescue world since she was a child. She worked part time as a domestic animal and wildlife veterinary technician while raising her two sons in South Jersey.

    Her dog training career began when her brother, a medic with US Army, and his unit rescued a puppy from the streets of Iraq in late 2007. She has since graduated with honors from the Animal Behavior College Dog Training Program, completed an intern/externship with the behavior team at Pennsylvania SPCA, trained in and taught advanced off leash obedience in group classes, assisted in training service dogs for veterans with PTSD, and owned and operated her own dog training business.

    Danielle began as a WDC volunteer in the Spring of 2014 and quickly realized that she was extremely interested in the practices, research, and scent detection training here at Working Dog Center. She became involved in all aspects of training, behavior, and research and participated in a five-day Wilderness Search and Rescue seminar with WDC K9 Logan (donated by Watcher Engle Kennels) and worked part-time as a research technician during the summer of 2014.

    She joined our training team as a full time trainer in May 2015 and enjoys being a back- up foster for our WDC dogs. In the fall of 2016, Danielle became full time foster to Roxie P (AKA Parsons from Zzissa litter 2014) and realized Roxie's potential as a single purpose detection canine. The two are currently in the process of completing the narcotics detection curriculum at the Working Dog Center. 

    When not at the WDC, Danielle can be found enjoying activities involving the great outdoors with her family, her own pet dogs as well as our WDC pups.

  • Bridget Stewart

    TrainerBridget Stewart-Working Dog Center

    stebri@upenn.edu

    Bridget’s interest in canine behavior started at a young age. She began working dogs in 4H with her Rhodesian Ridgeback and as a puppy raiser for The Seeing Eye.

    Through these experiences she learned about puppy development and learning curves. Throughout college she worked at a local animal shelter as a trainer and behavior evaluator. She worked with the shelter dogs teaching obedience, loose leash walking, and kennel manners. She also worked with staff and volunteers teaching positive training methods and canine behavior and body language. This helped the shelter team facilitate better matches with potential owners which led to more successful adoptions.

    Bridget attended Delaware Valley University and graduated with a Small Animal Science degree with a focus in animal behavior. The school provided a hands on learning program and she was able to successfully train a variety of animals from chickens to horses.

    After graduating, she began interning at the Working Dog Center where she learned about drive, scent work, and the training of working dogs. Now as one of our full time trainers Bridget says she is continuing to learn and improve her skills every day and that she “absolutely loves her job!” Bridget also offers her expertise to the public through evening classes offered through the Working Dog Center.

  • Alena Heyer

    TrainerAlena Heyer, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    alenah@upenn.edu

    Alena began working with canines at the age of 16 when she got her German Shepherd, Baily.

    She competed in Schutzhund Obedience and achieved her dog handler’s license and passed the German equivalent of the Canine Good Citizen test. For four years, she volunteered and assisted training others and their dogs in agility, protection work, tracking, and obedience classes 3-4 times a week. She has been working with dogs for more than 7 years and continues to grow more passionate about training.

    Once moving to the United States as an au pair from Germany. She moved to the United States for good in 2016. She got a job as Dog Trainer at Petco and became certified as an all Positive Dog trainer. In 2017 Alena joined the PVWDC team as an intern and could not get enough, so in June of 2018 she became one of their full time trainers.

    Alena says, “I have been working with dogs for more than 7 years and continue to grow more passionate about training and working alongside others who share my same love for dogs. Working at Penn Vet has been incredibly rewarding, and seeing the difference a Penn Vet Working Dog can make in law enforcement and the medical field has only reinforced my desire to continue helping dogs realize their full potential.”

    Alena married a dog trainer and owns two dogs. Additionally, she is fostering one of the Penn Vet Working Dogs: Boomer. In her free-time, Alena enjoys camping and hiking with her dogs.

  • Judi Berke

    Volunteer & Outreach CoordinatorJudi Berke, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    berkej@upenn.edu

    Judi Berke is a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic and graduate of Sherman Chiropratic College in Spartanburg, South Carolina, specializing in the NUCCA technique.

    Judi had 25 years of experience running a successful chiropractic practice in Glenside, PA. She has had training in animal adjusting and served as Clinic Doctor at the Pennsylvania Chiropractic College.

    For the past eight years, her experience has been in higher education as a Continuing Education Director.

    A dog owner for most of her life, Judi has enjoyed the company of a German Shepherd, two Great Danes, and a Yorkshire Terrier. She currently resides in Elkins Park, PA with her rescue dog, Patrick, a long-haired Dachshund mix. During the 2013 holiday season, Judi and Patrick served as a temporary foster family for the Work Dog Center, welcoming Bretagne as their special guest.

  • Tessa Seales

    Foster Coordinator

    tseales@upenn.edu

    Tessa and Dylan, Working Dog CenterTessa graduated from Drexel University in 2017 with a BA in Political Science. She was introduced to the Working Dog Center through the Drexel CO-OP Internship Program in March of 2015. She immediately fell in love with the mission and the goals of the WDC, finding her niche among the more difficult and temperamental dogs. 

    Tessa completed two CO-OP programs at the WDC, her second focusing more with the law enforcement and scent detection aspect of working dogs. At the end of her second CO-OP, she returned to the WDC as a part-time trainer. In the Spring of 2017, Tessa transitioned to the Foster Coordinator full-time, where she has the privilege of getting to know each of our fosters. 

    Tessa will be completing her Masters in Criminology at the University of Pennsylvania. She hopes to focus on the correlation between national security and the reliability and importance of working dogs.  

    In her free time, Tessa participates in research studies at the WDC, runs marathons and enjoys cooking. 

Penn Vet Working Dog Center Team