Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Established in 2007, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs.

With the United States national security under constant threat from attacks, detection dogs are still the best tool that we have to detect and mitigate potential threats. Search dogs are also critical for the detection of victims of natural and man-made disasters.

Our goal is to increase collaborative research, scientific assessment, and shared knowledge and application of the newest scientific findings and veterinary expertise to optimize production of valuable detection dogs. 

Our training program focuses on developing a well-rounded, social, driven dog capable of excellent detection work. We believe in utilizing positive training methods and incorporating real world scenarios. A unique combination of intense daily training combined with full-time family living makes our program the only one of its kind.


  • McBaine, Springer SpanielOur puppies participate in daily exercises that will hone and develop their natural instincts to play with toys, desire food, chase and hunt. Building these drives creates a solid foundation for which a successful search career is based.


  • In preparation for detection careers in fields including Search & Rescue, Kaiserin, Dutch ShepherdExplosive, Narcotic, and Cancer detection, our puppies are building confidence to search out and find their target in a variety of environments including buildings, vehicles, and an array of outdoor areas.


  • Sirius, Labrador RetrieverUtilizing a combination of traditional agility equipment and real world props, our puppies learn proprioception (hind-end awareness) and confidence on a wide array of surfaces and heights. This allows them to stay focused on their search and not their footing improving their probability of detection.


  • We expose our puppies to a variety of surfaces during their agility training, we PApa Bear, Labrador Retrieverteach them to be unphased by the many preassures and distractions they might encounter in their work environment. This includes crowds, moving vehicles, loud machinery, gun shots, other animals, and smoke are just a few situations they will learn to work through.

Fitness & Conditioning

  • With the amount of time and money it takes to get a dog to the level of field readiness, it is imperative that we ensure they stay at top physical performance. From the very beginning, our puppies undergo fitness routines aimed at maximizing their performance and increasing the duration of their working life.


  • Stand for veterinary exam, grooming, toe nail clipping, loading in and out of Jake, Labrador Retrievervehicles and traveling calmly are all skills that any dog needs to thrive. In addition to successful search careers, we strive to ensure that our puppies are confident and capable during their time off of work when they are faced with the same situations as any other dog.

Our program is built on the science and expertise of the University of Pennsylvania, thePediatrics exam, PVWDC vision of our current donors and sponsors, and the passion of the team of our employees and volunteers. We strive to be the preeminent Working Dog Center and make a difference in national security, fields of detection work, canine health and performance, and enhance that unique bond between humans and man’s best friend.

9/11 Medical Surveillance

  • Following the terrorist attacks of 9/11/01, search and rescue personnel and canines from across the country responded to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The hazards associated with the disaster response were not well appreciated, and only after the fact was it recognized that the contaminants in the environment posed potential health risk.

    With funding from the AKC Canine Health Foundation, a study was launched to monitor the health and behavioral effects of the canine responders deployed to search. We enrolled 95 deployed dogs and 55 non-deployed control search and rescue dogs.

    The data obtained from this study provides critical information that can be used to better prepare future teams. Our monitoring has allowed early detection of health problems in the dogs. These dogs also serve as sentinels for health problems that may occur in the human first responders.

    Study Objectives

    To determine if dogs deployed to the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and Staten Island Landfill have a higher incidence of long-term medical and behavioral problems compared to control non-deployed search and rescue dogs.
    To document the cause of death in deployed and control search and rescue dogs.
    To determine deployment period risk factors that may contribute to long-term health problems.
    To determine the amount and nature of particulate matter that the deployed search and rescue dogs have inhaled by identifying and quantifying specific fibrous and non-fibrous particulate materials in lung samples.


  • There is an escalating crisis as high quality detection dogs are becoming increasingly hard to obtain. This crisis stems from 3 key issues:

    Dramatic increase in demand for detection dogs

    Replacement of current Department of Homeland Security detection dogs due to retirement and injuries is estimated at >300 dogs/year. New Federal legislation demands in excess of 400 additional canine detection teams. State and local governments as well as private organizations with infrastructure at risk are being encouraged to obtain canine detection teams and federal funds to support advancement of canine programs is limited.

    Limited supply of detection dogs

    A vast majority of the detection dogs employed in the US have been obtained from over extended European suppliers. Most US dog breeders are not equipped with the necessary tools to produce more dogs that embody the temperament and physical characteristics necessary to become successful detection dogs.

    Lack of uniform standards for evaluating detection dog health or performance

    There is inadequate scientific research to validate optimal training or testing methodology for detection dogs. Lack of uniformed standards for selection, training, and certifying have contributed to numerous reports of fraud or failed performance in detection dogs and delays in advancing the number of dogs able to serve. There is also a lack of uniform screening of canine medical and behavioral conditions that would preclude or shorten a working career

    Study Objectives
    By unlocking the genetic code to successful detection dogs we can increase the number of dogs in the field serving their communities.

    Identify the behavioral and genetic traits necessary for successful detection dogs.
    Utilize these tools to improve domestic breeding of working lines and enhanced selection of breeding stock. Also increase the selection of successful dogs from private breeders, shelters, and rescues.
    Determine the influence of different rearing and training strategies and provide evidence-based recommendations to be applied throughout the industry.

Puppy Foundation Program

  • What is a working dog?
    A working dog is a highly and specifically trained canine that performs unique and critical tasks to benefit humans and society.

    Historically, working dogs have served as messenger dogs during war time; as helpmates to farmers in the fields; as a helping hand to people with disabilities; and as patrol dogs protecting the ports and entryways to our nation. Detection dogs, sometimes called “sniffer dogs”, are those that use their sense of smell to identify particular odors (such as explosives, drugs or lost people).  In addition, new research is illustrating a dog’s ability to identify infectious diseases (such as Salmonella) and even cancer.

    The depth and breadth of what these amazing canines can do is limitless and ensure our lives are better and safer.

    Where is the Puppy Foundation Program?
    We are in the process of opening our physical location in Philadelphia, PA, which will serve as a training and breeding center for the development of detection dogs. While the breeding and training will focus on detection dogs who can find specific targets (e.g. improvised explosive devices, foreign currency and lost or trapped humans), the information gained will benefit all working dogs from patrol dogs to service/guide dogs.

    The Penn Vet Working Dog Center will be located at 3401 Grays Ferry Ave and will open its doors in the Fall of 2012.

    What is the impact of Puppy Foundation Program?
    There is, indeed, a shortage of highly trained working dogs in the US. By establishing the Puppy Foundation Program we will lead the way in responsibly breeding the best and healthiest of these important dogs, while also enhancing their success through our scientifically designed foundation training program.
    We will:

    Apply rigorous scientific methods to validate the hereditary, behavioral and environmental influences on the selection and training of working dogs;
    Identify medical factors and create health screenings that will enhance the working lifespan of detection dogs;
    Test and refine current proposed detection standards to develop across-the-board standards for all aspects of performance;
    Involve the community, including youth at risk, veterans and graduates of prison dog raising programs in our puppy socialization
    Share information gained.


The Working Dog Center brings together individuals who are scientific, passionate, curious, and enthusiastically engaged in the quest for knowledge. We welcome all members of the canine community who believe knowledge is the foundation for enhanced performance.

In addition to offering resources on training, health, and fitness, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center hosts an annual conference. Held at the Purina Event Center in St. Louis, Missouri, the 2013 Penn Vet Working Dog Conference focused on 'The Art & Science of Training: Dog & Handler'.

Working dogs require very special people to train and care for them. Our team comprises a remarkable group of individuals, along withStaff, PVWDC a dedicated group of foster parents, generous donors, and dedicated volunteers.


Cindy Otto, DVM, PhD, Executive Director

  • Cindy Otto, Director, Penn Vet Working Dog CenterCindy Otto, DVM, PhD
    Executive Director, Associate Professor of Critical Care | cmotto@vet.upenn.edu

    Dr. Otto, a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 from 1994 to 2010, began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue canines in October of 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. This work inspired her to establish the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

    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.

    Her research program has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery, Morris Animal Foundation and other foundations.

    She has also been involved in disaster medicine as a member of the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team – 2 since 1999.

    Dr. Otto is a board-certified emergency and critical care veterinarian and a tenured associate professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine and 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.

    She is 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
    • Pennsylvania State Animal Response Team Board 2010
    • US Special Operations Command Committee on Canine Tactical-Combat Casualty Care 2010
    • Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthoganol Detector Guidelines 2011
    • Advisory Committee for The Center for Animal and Human Relationships (CENTAUR) VA-MD Regional College of Veterinary Medicine 2012
    • Search Dog Foundation Canine Veterinary Working Group 2012
    • Finding One Courage Beyond Measure
    • Hand2Paw – Board member 2012
    • YAP – Youth Ambassador working dog Program Board Member 2012

Annemarie DeAngelo, MAS, Training Director

  • Annemarie DeAngelo, MAS
    Training Director | adeang@vet.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.

Vicki Berkowitz, Associate Director

  • Vicki Berkowitz
    Associate Director | vickibe@vet.upenn.edu

    Vicki is a graduate of The George Washington University with a BA in Communications.  After graduation, she began her career in the brokerage industry earning her Series 7 & Series 8 licenses and a position working with branch offices across the Midwest to enhance their operations efficiency and overall industry compliance.  
  • After 6 years in the industry, Vicki pursued an opportunity experience life in another culture and spent a year teaching English to college professors in Ecuador, South America. After returning to the United States, Vicki joined a retained search firm in Albany, NY specializing in building executive and leadership teams for high-tech start up companies.
  • Vicki has spent the last 11 years in roles with increasing responsibility at Muscular Dystrophy Association. Over the past 7 years as a leader on 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 enjoys hiking with her 4-year-old Leonberger, Eloise, who is not only a registered therapy dog but also a decorated "Dock Dog" competitor.

Pat Kaynaroglu, Training Manager

  • Pat Kaynaroglu
    Training Manager | pkay@vet.upenn.edu

    Pat graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a BA in Special Education. Her dogs have been used as therapy dogs in her special education classrooms. She coordinated the “Cody Project”, a community service program using school students to train search dogs. She received a Teacher of the Year Award from the Kids in Need Foundation in 2010.

    Pat has worked with volunteers in many non-profits. She was Director of PA Special Olympic Equestrian Events, an instructor at Thorncroft Equestrian Center, Director of the Upper Main Line YMCA “Open Doors” Program, and President and Volunteer Coordinator for Lake County Search and Rescue.

    Pat has been a search dog handler since 1992. She is a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Canine Search Specialist, Evaluator, and Instructor.

    Pat and her husband Hakan love the outdoors and have a mountain home in Colorado.

Kathleen Kelsey, MS, MBA, Research Coordinator

  • Kathleen Kelsey, MS, MBA
    Research Coordinator | kkelsey@vet.upenn.edu

    Kathleen graduated from the University of Missouri with an MS in Animal Science and her MBA from Columbia College. Before joining the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, she worked with Purina Mills providing nutritional programs for dog owners across the Midwest and as a Veterinary Technician at a large practice in Kansas City.

    She has been involved with Urban Search and Rescue since 2003 as a Canine Search Specialist with Missouri Task Force One. Her experience as a trainer, combined with her interest in research, drew her to the mission of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.

    Kathleen continues to deploy with Missouri Task Force One with current partner, an American Bull Dog Mix, ChicoDog. Kathleen is also a member of McClean County EMA with her Human Remains Detection dog, a German Shepherd Dog, Zach. She is also enjoying training Nosework with her retired USAR partner, a Dutch Shepherd named Calvary.

Interested in helping the Penn Vet Working Dog Center? Make a gift today and help us fund the many exciting projects at our Center, including training, research, and education.

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