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Meet Our Speakers


2018 Working Dog Conference Speakers

Keynote Speaker

Patricia McConnell, PhD, CAAB - McConnell PublishingDr. Patricia McConnell

Patricia McConnell, PhD, CAAB is an Ethologist who has consulted with pet owners for over twenty-five years about serious behavioral problems. She taught "The Biology and Philosophy of Human/Animal Relationships" in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison for twenty five-years and speaks around the world about canine behavior and training. Dr. McConnell is the author of eleven books on training and behavioral problems, as well as the critically acclaimed books The Other End of the Leash (translated into 14 languages), For the Love of a Dog, and Tales of Two Species. Her newest book, The Education of Will, is a memoir focusing on healing from trauma in both people and dogs. Patricia and her husband live with their working Border Collies Willie and Maggie, and her King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Tootsie, along with a very spoiled flock of sheep. 

Conference Speakers

Carmen Battaglia, Working Dog Conference

Carmen Battaglia, PhD - American Kennel Club

Dr. Carmen L. Battaglia, of Roswell, Georgia, is a member of the American Kennel Club Board of Directors and serves as their AKC Delegate. On two occasions he has served as President of the German Shepherd Dog Club of America. Dr. Battaglia is the son of first-generation Sicilian immigrants. He attended Florida State University on a football scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, a master’s in criminology, and doctorates in criminology and sociology.  He was employed by Emory University as Assistant Dean and later became the Regional Administrator for the US Department of Education. In 1960, he and his wife, Nancy, established the Van Cleve line of German Shepherd Dogs. His research on dogs and animals has continued throughout his career.  He has since bred and managed top dogs in the breed, finishing several himself. Many of his winners have come from the American-Bred class and from futurity and maturity shows, "where competition is among the best breeders." Dr. Battaglia’s breeding and research has led to a number of influential books and articles. He is the author of Breeding Better Dogs, now in its fifth printing, The Proper Care of German Shepherds and his newest book Breeding Dogs to Win.  He has published more than 60 articles and his findings, reports and articles have appeared in the American Veterinary Journal of Medicine, The Journal of Veterinary Behavioral Science, the AKC Gazette, Canine Chronicle, Dog News, Dog World, and many of the leading journals abroad. Dr. Battaglia is a popular judge of herding and working breeds and some sporting breeds. He is one of the few who has presided at German Shepherd National Specialties in America, Canada, and Mexico. He has judged more than 12 other national specialties and the specialties in many other breeds. He has judged at five AKC/Eukanuba National Championships.

Vicki BerkowitzVicki Berkowitz, Associate Director - Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Vicki joined the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (PVWDC) in November, 2013, bringing to our program a background in Non-Profit Management, Budgeting, Operations, Strategic Planning and Staff Development. Vicki is directly responsible for the daily operations of the PVWDC as well as our fiscal management, staff oversight, and involved in programmatic development and strategic planning. Prior to joining the PVWDC, Vicki had a 12 year career with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA). Her last position with the MDA was as a Divisional Director where she oversaw fundraising offices and health care services across Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware while also leading Regional and National sponsor relationships. Vicki is a Graduate of the George Washington University.

Matthew BreenMatthew Breen, PhD, C. Biol, FRSB - NC State University

Matthew Breen’s research interests include the genomics, genome mapping and comparative aspects of canine diseases and cancer, assessment of the genetics of performance in working dogs, and the use of genetic tools to combat illegal animal killing and trafficking through veterinary/wildlife forensics. Dr. Breen is a Professor of Genomics and the Oscar J. Fletcher Distinguished Professor of Comparative Oncology Genetics in the Dept. of Molecular Biomedical Sciences at the NCSU College of Veterinary Medicine. He is also Associate Director of the NC State Forensic Science Institute, a member of the NCSU Comparative Medicine Institute (CMI), the NCSU Genetics Program in the College of Science, the Duke Cancer Institute, and the Cancer Genetics Program at the University of North Carolina's Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. He serves on the steering committee of the Consortium for Canine Comparative Oncology (C3O), a strategic partnership between NC State College of Veterinary Medicine and the Duke Cancer Institute. Dr. Breen was a charter member, and serves on the Board of Directors, of the Canine Comparative Oncology and Genomics Consortium (CCOGC), a 501c3 not-for-profit organization established to promote the role of the dog in comparative biomedical research, and also serves on the board of directors of the Canines-N-Kids Foundation, a 501c3 committed to finding a cure to the devastating cancers that canines and children face in common. He is also a charter member of the Sea Lion Cancer Consortium (SLiCC) and a founder of Sentinel Biomedical, an NC State company established to bring advanced genetics tools to the broader canine community.       

Annemarie DeAngelo Penn Vet Annemarie DeAngelo, MAS, Training Director - Penn Vet Working Dog Center

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.   

Jenny EsslerJenny Essler, PhD

Dr. Jennifer Essler worked for a number of years researching cognition and social behaviors in non-human primates, namely capuchin monkeys. She received her PhD in Comparative Cognition from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. Her dissertation focused on the effects of domestication on inequity aversion and cooperation in the domestic dog and the gray wolf. She is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, working at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Here, she runs the general research department of the WDC, including the cancer detection research, odor threshold studies, as well as investigates ways to quantify and analyze the training done at the WDC in order to further improve working dog training and placement.

Refael FrancoRefael Franco, MPH

Refael Franco has been a working dog trainer since 2001 and has over 25 years of law enforcement experience. Refael has developed a civilian course, My Dog College, providing owners important skills they will need to raise their dog from puppy to adult.

Bradley Gillespie - Canadian Police Canine AssociationBrad Gillespie

Bradley Gillespie has been involved with handling and training working dogs for 20 years. He has trained Police and military dog teams globally. Brad is currently a trainer with a large Police K9 program in Canada where he specializes in patrol, explosive detection and tactical integration. He is the Ontario Director for the Canadian Police Canine Association. Brad considers himself a student of the game and tries to employ science and proven based approaches to training whenever possible. He is continually striving to better train operationally reliable K9 teams though training programs that are repeatable, reliable, teachable and learnable. 

Marina Hall PhillipsMarina Hall Phillips - Assistance Dogs International Breeding Cooperative

Marina has been working in the guide and service dog field since 1986. Her dog training background is varied, including behavior assessment and rehabilitation of dogs impounded for biting, and certification as an Assistance Dog Instructor at Canine Companions for Independence (CCI). In addition, while at CCI, Marina directed the nationwide puppy-raising program and specialized in early puppy training, handler education and community development. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis. Marina has specialized in breeding colony management since 1995. She was the inaugural Director of Breeding and Puppy Development at CCI and transitioned to Guide Dogs for the Blind in 1999. At Guide Dogs she oversaw breeding, volunteer management and dog placement until her retirement in 2011. Continuing in to retirement, Marina is keen on integrating practical herd management with emerging technology to meet the dynamic needs of the guide and service dog field. She is an avid promoter of global collaboration to assist the industry’s ability to provide enrichment to people with disabilities via partnership with highly trained purpose-bred dogs.  

Liz Hare, PhD - Dog Genetics LLC, Penn Vet Working Dog CenterDr. Liz Hare

Dr. Hare received her PhD in Genetics for research on the heritability of litter size in the Seeing Eye breeding program. She has provided quantitative genetic analysis and selective breeding advice for the TSA Canine Breeding and Development Center, Leader Dogs for the Blind, and the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. She conducted a high-density genotypic marker study to identify genomic regions associated with detection behaviors and distraction index. She provides statistical analyses for many of the studies conducted at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, including comparing hydration strategies for working dogs, validation of health monitoring instruments, and analysis of behavior questionnaires for dogs in several working disciplines.

Fred Helfers - Pacific Northwest Police Detection Dog AssociationFred Helfers

Fred Helfers is a retired police narcotics detective from the Pacific Northwest. Fred served two terms as president of the Washington State Police Canine Association and is the founding president of the Pacific Northwest Police Detection Dog association. Fred has trained detection canines and handlers for over 25 years and has presented training seminars and workshops in the US, Australia, Canada, Brazil and Europe. Further, Fred is recognized as as a SME on detection dogs in both state and federal courts. Fred was a founding member of  SWGDOG (Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthogonal detector Guidelines) and is currently a member of OSAC - Dogs and Sensors sub committee.

Pat Kaynaroglu, Training Manager - Penn Vet Working Dog CenterPat Kaynaroglu Penn Vet

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 their family.

Russell KelleyRussell Kelley - Royal Canin

Russ Kelley  Russ is an Alumni of Auburn University, Department of Animal and Dairy Sciences. His undergraduate emphasis was Meat Science and Animal Production. Russ’s graduate work focused on Growth & Development with an emphasis on embryonic and neonatal muscle development. Russ was on staff at Auburn University as a Research Specialist from 1993-1997. He joined The Iams Company in 1997 as a member of the Strategic Research Group (Discovery) where he led efforts in Maternal and Neonatal Nutrition with an emphasis on fatty acid metabolism. He also led efforts in the Service and Working Dog arenas and developed multiple collaborative Research Alliances with external organizations. Later he also led Gastrointestinal Health efforts with emphasis on Puppy and Stress Models. Upon retiring from The Iams Company, Russ founded Kelley Canine Consulting where he served numerous organizations around the globe on Colony Management, Facility Design, Nutritional Management, and Breeder Selection Criteria. Russ returned to industry in 2016, joining Royal Canin as Science Lead / Service and Working Dog Research Manager. Russ is based in Lewisburg, Ohio where he is a member of the PHNC Leadership Team and is a member of the Discover Team in Aimargues, France.  

Eldin Leighton, PhD - Canine Genetics Services, LLCLeighton

Eldin A. Leighton was the canine breeding program manager at The Seeing Eye, Inc. for over 20 years, when he retired in 2015. Dr. Leighton holds advanced degrees (M.S. 1973 and Ph.D. 1979) in animal breeding and statistics from Iowa State University. From 1973-76, Dr. Leighton served in the U.S. Army where he was Research Geneticist assigned to the Biological Sensor Research project. While there, he organized the accumulated records into an electronic database and began calculating estimated breeding values for a measure of hip quality and for a behavior assessment score. After leaving active duty in 1976, Dr. Leighton resumed his studies at Iowa State. While a PhD student, his consulting services were sought by The Seeing Eye, and numerous visits were made to their campus in New Jersey beginning in 1977. In 1978, he advised The Seeing Eye to begin scoring an overall ability to be trained as a guide on every dog returning to begin training. A similar score for assessing hip quality was also begun that same year. Now, in 2017, The Seeing Eye continues to use the trainability score as an overall metric reflecting the general ability of each dog to be trained for working as a guide dog for blind people. In 1980, The Seeing Eye commissioned Dr. Leighton to write a breeding plan they could follow with two primary objectives:  (1.) improve hip quality, and (2.) improve the genetic ability of dogs to be trained for guide work. That plan was in place by early 1981, and it remains the basic blueprint guiding the decision-making process still being used by The Seeing Eye today. The tools for making genetic assessments have been regularly updated over the decades, but the basic plan remains in place.    Following retirement from The Seeing Eye, Dr. Leighton started a private consulting company, Canine Genetic Services, LLC, to provide breeding program advice and direction to working dog breeding organizations worldwide. In 2011, he outlined a general framework for a global database that eventually became the International Working Dog Registry (IWDR). He and two others are the primary developers of IWDR, which they recently gifted to the International Working Dog Breeding Association (IWDBA), which will be the long-term custodian of the database. IWDBA is organized as non-profit organization under the laws of the State of Texas, and it recognized by the US Internal Revenue Service as a 501(c)(3) charity.  

Leslie McDevittLeslie McDevitt, CDBC, CDPT-KA - International Association of Dog Behavior Consultants

Leslie McDevitt CDBC, CPDT-KA is a certified dog behavior consultant, speaker and author of the internationally popular books Control Unleashed: Creating a Focused and Confident Dog and Control Unleashed: Puppy Program. Leslie specializes in teaching performance and working dogs how to function optimally in challenging environments. her system Control Unleashed is a unique blend of clicker training and behavior modification designed to bring out the confidence, focus and work ethic in your dog so they can do their jobs without concerns or distractions, and enjoy being part of a team.

Monaco Torelli

Laura Monaco Torelli, KPA Faculty, CPDT-KA, TAGteach Level 3 - Animal Behavior Training Concepts

Laura Monaco Torelli is the founder of Animal Behavior Training Concepts in Chicago, Illinois. She began her career in 1991 at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium, where she trained beluga whales, dolphins, sea otters, seals, river otters, and penguins. After nearly a decade at the Shedd, she moved on to the San Diego Zoo and then Brookfield Zoo as a lead supervisory trainer. During her time in the zoo community, Laura worked with a wide variety of terrestrial animals, including primates, large cats, birds of prey, horses, parrots, tree kangaroos, giraffes, red pandas, and dogs. Laura serves as a faculty member of Karen Pryor Academy (KPA), and as a Teaching Assistant for Dr. Susan Friedman’s Living & Learning with Animals online course. She and her team at Animal Behavior Training Concepts offer private in-home training as well as group classes at Medical District Veterinary Clinic, an extension of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Laura has presented at many professional conferences, including those held by the American Pre-Veterinary Medical Association, the Animal Behavior Management Alliance, the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association, the Society for Veterinary Behavior Technicians, the Association of Professional Dog Trainers, the Midwest Veterinary Conference, TAGteach International, and the Interdisciplinary Forum for Applied Animal Behavior. She has appeared on various broadcast media, including WGN and NBC 5 news and WCIU’s You & Me This Morning.   

Paul Mundell Mundell WDC 200

Paul Mundell was the Chief Executive Officer of Canine Companions for Independence. During his tenure, Paul led key initiatives to build CCI’s capacity to the meet the increasing demand for service dogs as well as improving the performance and longevity of CCI’s canine population. Central to those initiatives was the construction of the Canine Early Development Center to provide optimal perinatal care and early enrichment, which Paul designed, and the construction of a sixth regional training center, in Dallas, Texas. Prior to becoming CEO, Paul served as the National Director of Canine Programs for CCI, where he oversaw all aspects of the canine program, including breeding and the selection of breeding stock, puppy development, training, and veterinary care. Primarily responsible for identifying and validating techniques to improve CCI’s ability to select, breed and train service dogs, he became an expert in applied animal genetics and breeding and led the breeding, development and training program for over 700 dogs each year for over a decade. Throughout his tenure at CCI, Paul was actively involved in research to improve the health and success of CCI dogs, primarily focused on the areas of learning, performance assessment and phenotypic selection. In addition, Paul has consulted with other working dog programs, including the United States Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory where he assisted in a project to develop specialized search dogs that remotely detected improvised explosive devices in a tactical environment. For this project, Paul provided the USMC with expertise in the selection, training, conditioning and deployment of dogs and authored the emotional reactivity (screening) test used to select all dogs for this program. Since retiring from CCI, Paul remains engaged in research in canine health and the factors affecting working dog performance and consults with organizations worldwide. Paul received a BA from Haverford College and attended graduate school at the University of Heidelberg.

Cindy Otto Penn Vet

Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD, DACVECC, DACVSMR, CCRT - Penn Vet Working Dog Center

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.   

Erin Perry, PhD - Southern Illinois University Dr. Erin Perry

Dr. Erin Perry is an Assistant Professor at Southern Illinois University with more than 15 years of experience with working canines. She specializes in both horses and working canines and hopes to develop better diagnostic tools for identifying causes of microbial dysbiosis. Her research focuses on bringing practical solutions to the challenges encountered by working canines on deployment including gastrointestinal upset as a result of stress and improvements to current decontamination methods. Dr. Perry has certified multiple canines for Missouri Task Force One and also works with the Federal Emergency Management Agency as a Canine Evaluator and Canine Instructor. She has deployed to numerous federal disasters including Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Sandy, Joplin Tornado, Colorado Flooding, Hurricane Matthew and Hurricane Harvey. Dr. Perry's primary goal is to drive the development of operational guidelines for working dogs in the field in order to maximize their performance and longevity.  

Carl Rothe - Puppies Behind BarsCarl Rothe

Carl Rothe is the senior instructor for Puppies Behind Bars (PBB), a non-profit organization that trains prison inmates to raise, train and care for puppies that will become service dogs for the disabled and explosive detection canines for law enforcement. Mr. Rothe took his love and passion for his own Labrador Retrievers, and began his career in dog obedience training over 20 years ago. This lead to his employment at a nationally renowned guide dog school located in the New York metropolitan area. It was here that he worked and received formal training and eventually took an instructor position with PBB. Now as the Senior Instructor his duties include the training and instruction of new staff as well as opening and preliminary instruction for the program in new correctional facilities. Founded in 1997 by Gloria Gilbert Stoga, PBB has become a world leader in prison dog raising programs. The quality of the dogs produced is second to none, but equally important is the effect the program has on the inmates who care for the dogs. The puppies live in prison with their ‘puppy raisers’ from age eight weeks until eighteen months. As the puppies mature into well-loved, well-behaved dogs their raisers learn what it means to contribute to society rather than take from it.  

Mark Ruefenacht - Dogs4DiabeticsMark Ruefenacht

Mark Ruefenacht, a forensic metrologist by profession, is best known for his work with assistance dogs and revolutionary discoveries in diabetes care. He is recognized for discovering a dog's olfactory abilities to detect life-threatening blood sugar changes in insulin-dependent diabetics and is renowned for training the first dog in the world to detect and alert to life-threatening low-blood sugar in type 1 diabetics. As a pioneer in the medical detection- and alert-dog field, Mark continues research into the training and use of dogs to assist in the mitigation of different medical conditions and service dog applications. Mark is an instructor at the National Institute of Science & Technology (NIST) on topics of quality, statistics, measurement uncertainty/confidence, and measurement/testing science.  He currently serves on the NIST Organization of Scientific Committees for Forensic Science (OSAC). He is an active volunteer for Guide Dogs for the Blind and is the President and Founder of Dogs4Diabetics. Internationally acclaimed for his innovative training of assistance dogs, Mark continues to share his story of discovery and innovation with audiences around the world. He is a 2013 recipient of the Jefferson Award for Public Service and Volunteerism. He was named by the American Diabetes Association “Diabetes Forecast” Magazine as an innovator who has made one of the biggest impacts in the lives of diabetics. In 2010, he was recognized by “Bark” Magazine as one of the 100 most innovative dog trainers in the world. And, he was named one of the most memorable and inspiring individuals residing in the San Francisco Bay Area for his social entrepreneurship.

Jane Russenberger, BS - Guiding Eye for the BlindJane Russenberger

Over the past 30 years, Jane has been the Director of Breeding and Genetics at Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York. Using various scoring systems in collaboration with multiple specialists, Jane has studied and scored aspects of behavior on thousands of potential guide dogs.  The knowledge gained has been incorporated into improving the genetic as well as environmental influences on behavior of 165 Labrador and German Shepherd guide dogs annually produced by Guiding Eyes for the Blind.      

Bridget Stewart, Trainer - Penn Vet Working Dog CenterBridget Stewart-Working Dog Center

Bridget began her interest in training and the abilities of dogs at a young age. She was able gain experience through 4-H and the Seeing Eye puppy raising program. There she began her introduction into working dogs through both obedience, access skills and appropriate socialization. She began working in a local shelter and trained the dogs loose leash walking, socialization, household and kennel manners. She led the staff and volunteers through these skills as well as appropriate matching of each dog to an appropriate home. Bridget received her degree in Small Animal Science from Delaware Valley University. From there she has been at the Working Dog Center, first as a volunteer, then as a trainer. From her time there she has had successfully been a part of training dogs in many careers including search and rescue, patrol, bedbug detection, and arson detection to name a few. Bridget plays an integral role in the Fit to Work program which includes both training the dogs and training WDC volunteers. 

Scott ThomasScott Thomas

Bio pending.