New Bolton Center Kennett Square, PA
Emergencies & Appointments:
Ryan Hospital Philadelphia, PA
Working Dog Center Team

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.

Leadership Team


    Executive DirectorDr Cindy Otto and Working Dog Blitz

    Dr. Otto is a tenured professor of Working Dog Sciences & Sports Medicine 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 oversees the fitness and medical care of the detection dogs in the program, and the rehabilitation and conditioning for police and other working dogs

    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. Her research on and by detection dogs, includes studies of exercise, hydration, factors affecting olfaction, predictors of working success, medical detection of both human (e.g. cancer, infection and COVID-19) and animal (chronic wasting disease) disease.  She has published over 115 articles in peer reviewed journals, authored over 20 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 Alumnus 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, the 2019 International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium Mark Bloomberg Award and in 2021 the Asa Mays DVM, Excellence in Canine Health Research and the VECCS Ira M. Zaslow Distinguished Service Award.

    Advisory Positions

    • USAR Veterinary Group – 2007 - present
    • Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthoganol Detector Guidelines 2011-2014
    • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Dogs and Sensors2014-Present
    • American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) Standards Board, Dogs and Sensors Consensus Body, Vice-Chair 2016-Present
    • Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association Ad Hoc Committee on Operational K9s 2017-2019
    • Subject Matter Expert Homeland Security Information Network 2017-Present
    • Explosives Detection Canine Capacity Building Working Group 2019 – 2020


  • Vicki Berkowitz

    Associate DirectorVickiEloise

    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.

  • Annemarie DeAngelo, MAS

    Training DirectorADeAngelo, Rebelion-Left, Waya-Right

    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. 

  • Bob Dougherty

    Law Enforcement Training DirectorBob Dougherty and K9 partner Tango

    Bob began his career at the Working Dog Center as a volunteer in 2013 between shifts from his primary employment as a K9 police officer.  After retiring from 31 years of service (29 years in K9), Bob was hired full time as the K9 Law Enforcement Coordinator at the Working Dog Center.  Bob is a is a certified Level 1 Patrol Dog and Detector Trainer, and a National Detector and National PD1 Judge with the United States Police Canine Association.  As well, Bob has been the editor of the Association publication ‘Canine Courier’ since 2015.  Bob also works as an explosive dog handler as a contractor with his ATF certified Malinois dog, Churro.

    Open to learning all training methodologies and philosophies from various sources (police, sport, and civilian disciplines), Bob’s personal moral code is to never be cruel in the training of dogs in general as well as patience specifically in training young working dogs.

    Bob’s approach is one that first looks at each dog as individualistic, focuses on establishing a solid foundation of training basic skills necessary for young dog’s to be successful in a career which will demand operational applications difficult to impossible in the training environment, and removing the conflict which can occur between a dog and handler/trainer due to not being clear in what the dog is being asked to learn, harsh and or premature physical pressure before a dog understands what is expected of them.  

    Bob believes that handlers and trainers need to be passionate about what they do, actively involved and not just sitting back evaluating from afar, and continuously seek new knowledge, challenging oneself and setting goals for the dog and human separate from their own personal egos.

    Bob completed his first Master’s degree in Criminal Intelligence at St. Joseph’s University, a second Master’s degree in Homeland Security from University of Maryland Global Campus and a Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice from Temple University.  Bob also served 12 years in the United States Marine Corps and two combat tours in Iraq.        

Medical Team

  • Meghan Ramos, VMD

    Medical Director
    Dr. Meghan Ramos, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Dr. Meghan Ramos is the Medical Director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, and a Lecturer of Working Dog Sciences and Sports Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Ramos integrates her clinical expertise with a commitment to advancing veterinary education and research. She possesses a strong academic background, having earned a Veterinary Medical Doctor (VMD) degree from the University of Pennsylvania's School of Veterinary Medicine and currently pursuing a Master's in Translational Medicine from the School of Medicine. Dr. Ramos completed her residency in Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation and is board eligible for The American Veterinary College of Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation. 

    In her role, Dr. Ramos contributes to the field of canine sports medicine and rehabilitation, striving to enhance the understanding of working dogs' physical and physiological attributes. Her position as Medical Director at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center allows her to play a key part in improving clinical practices and pioneering research, particularly in areas like preventative healthcare, physical conditioning, and the overall well-being of working canines.

    Dr. Ramos is also deeply committed to education, sharing her knowledge and experiences with budding veterinarians and industry peers. Her involvement in various professional communities and her contributions through publications highlight her dedication to the continuous improvement and evolution of veterinary medicine. Dr. Ramos's approach to her work is characterized by a continuous quest for knowledge and a passion for contributing positively to the field and the lives of the working dogs she loves.

  • MAJ Gretchen Powers, DVM, MS, CCRP

    MAJ Gretchen Powers, DVM, MS, CCRPVeterinarian & Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Resident

    Dr. Gretchen Powers is a veterinarian and sports medicine and rehabilitation resident at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center. Dr. Powers completed veterinary school at Mississippi State University in 2015 and was commissioned into the U.S. Army Veterinary Corps upon graduation. She is also a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner.

    During this educational assignment, Dr. Powers is completing a master’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management at Thomas Jefferson University. She has served at Fort Campbell, Camp Lejeune, and Kaiserslautern, Germany. She will continue active duty service after her time at the Working Dog Center. Her passion as an Army Veterinary Corps Officer is in the care of Military Working Dogs. Dr. Powers is interested in working dog performance medicine and physical rehabilitation and enjoys teaching canine tactical combat casualty care.


    Director of Medical Education - Working Dog PractitionerLee Palmer, DVM, Penn Vet WDC copy

    Dr. Palmer is a Diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care and Certified Canine Rehabilitation Practitioner (CCRP). He earned his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine from Washington State University in 2006. Dr. Palmer earned his Masters of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences and completed his clinical residency in Small Animal Emergency and Critical Care at Auburn University in 2013.

    Dr. Palmer possesses over 20 years of military, tactical and operational medicine experience, and over 10 years of supervisory, instructor and academic investigative research experience. He has served in the military since 1996 in active and reserve status in the roles of Senior Explosive Ordinance Disposal Technician and US Army Veterinary Corps Officer. Currently, Dr. Palmer is assigned to the 20th Special Forces Group, Alabama Army National Guard, in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. In addition to his veterinary attributes, Dr. Palmer is a national registry paramedic (NRP) and he actively functions as a Certified Tactical Paramedic (TP-C) and reserve Deputy Sheriff for the Lee County SWAT Team in Alabama.

    Dr. Palmer lectures and provides training and consultation nationally and internationally in the field of K9 Tactical Casualty Care (K9 TECC) to military, law enforcement and Search and Rescue (SAR) K9 handlers, Tier 1 operators and Tactical EMS (TEMS) personnel. He is a Veterinary Consultant for various military and federal agencies to include the USAF Para-rescue group, US Marshals Service, and DHS Federal Protective Services. Dr. Palmer has authored numerous peer-reviewed manuscripts and serves as the Section Head for the Journal of Special Operations Medicine, Ongoing Canine Series. He is currently serving as the Medical Education Director for PennVet’s Working Dog Practitioner program and also serves in the following capacities:

    • Lead, K9 Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (K9 TECC) working group.
    • Lead, Veterinary Committee on Trauma (VetCOT) Prehospital subcommittee.
    • Board of Adviser, Committee of Tactical Emergency Casualty Care (C-TECC).
    • K9 Advisor, Domestic Highway Enforcement, High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas working group.
    • Member, DoD Canine Combat Casualty Care Committee and K9 TCCC Education & Training Subcommittee.
    • Consultant, Emergency and Critical Care, Veterinary Information Network (VIN).
    • Instructor for:
      • North Carolina State University CVM, “K9 Down” program
      • Counter Narcotics & Terrorism Operational Medical Support (CONTOMS) EMT-Tactical Program, SEI, Special Tactics Operators Advanced Life Support (STOALS) course


  • Ruth Desiderio

    Tessa Desiderio, Penn Vet Working Dog CenterVolunteer & Outreach Coordinator

    Ruth Desiderio joined the Working Dog Center in 2021 after 23 years in public education. A graduate of Gettysburg College with a Masters from LaSalle University, Ruth taught students at the elementary level for twelve years before becoming Supervisor of Special Education at North Penn High School and then Director of Special Education for the district. As a special education teacher and administrator, Ruth collaborated with diverse teams of families, educators, counselors, and related service providers to help students reach their potential in inclusive and supportive learning environments. While in North Penn, Ruth developed and supported programming in the areas of positive behavior interventions and mental health while championing inclusive practices district-wide.

    Ruth is the proud parent of three grown children and is an adoring Oma to her granddaughter, Norah.  In all of her professional and personal endeavors, Ruth has been energized by the people with whom she works. She treasures the relationships that have developed with her colleagues, volunteers, interns, and all in the wider community who are inspired by the mission of the Working Dog Center.

  • Sarah Gally

    Sarah Gally, Penn Vet Working Dog CenterFoster Program Coordinator & Skills Trainer

    Sarah graduated from Drexel in March 2022 with a B.S. in Psychology and a minor in Science, Technology and Society. She first started at the Working Dog Center during her Drexel CO-OP program in 2020, where her internship focused on applied behavior in criminal justice with dual-purpose K9s.

    Once her CO-OP cycle ended, she began volunteering and worked part-time as a Kennel Lead. Sarah loved her time as an PVWDC intern, volunteer, and kennel lead, and she is excited to be working full-time as the Foster Program Coordinator! She enjoys continuing to learn and improve her skills every day. Her favorite thing about PVWDC is watching puppies develop into amazing working dogs that save lives and make the world a better place.

    In her free time, she enjoys spending time outdoors with her family dogs, Tilly and Van, and her foster pup, K9 Cash.

  • Tessa Seales
    Tessa Seales and K9 Skiff

    Social Media Coordinator

    Tessa graduated from Drexel University in 2017 with a BA in Political Science and from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 with a MS in Criminology. She was introduced to the WDC through the Drexel CO-OP Internship Program in March of 2015 and went on to complete two CO-OP’s at the WDC.

    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 Program Coordinator full-time, where she has the privilege of recruiting and training all WDC Foster Families.

    Tessa has also fostered two WDC dogs – K9 Skiff (Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department) and K9 Gunner (currently in training).

Research Team

  • Amritha Mallikarjun, PhD
    Dr. Amritha Mallikarjun, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Amritha obtained a B.S. in Cognitive Science with an additional major in Human-Computer Interaction from Carnegie Mellon University. She then joined the University of Maryland Language Development Lab as a Ph.D. student in the fall of 2014. Her interest in speech perception and auditory processing in dogs drove the formation of the UMD Canine Language Perception Lab at UMD in 2017. Her thesis research focused on the impact of ambient noise in the environment on speech perception and word learning in infants and dogs. She is currently working on several scent detection studies at the PVWDC.

  • Clara Wilson, PhD
    Clara Wilson

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow

    Clara received her BSc in Psychology from The University of Sussex, where she was first introduced to the field of Animal Behavior, and worked as a Junior Research Associate carrying out research on how domestic horses interpret human body posture. She received her MSc in Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare at The University of Edinburgh, where she developed a specific interest in the way that dogs learn, and how humans can effectively work alongside dogs to utilise their incredible sense of smell while maintaining high standards of welfare and enrichment.

    After her MSc, Clara worked at The University of Bristol in collaboration with the charity Medical Detection Dogs to investigate Diabetic Alert Dog performance and behavior, and completed two research internships at The Penn Vet Working Dog Center. In 2022 she received her Doctoral Degree in Applied Canine Olfaction and Behavior from Queen’s University Belfast, investigating dogs’ abilities to detect odor cues associated with human psychological stress, and the role of behavioral characteristics in bio-detection dog performance.

    At the Working Dog Center, she is working as a post-doctoral researcher on a collaborative project investigating detection dog behavior, performance, occupational health and longevity.

    In her free time, Clara works alongside clinical behaviorists to develop, and assist owners in carrying out, positive-reinforcement-based behavior modification plans for their dogs. Coming from the United Kingdom, she also enjoys spending time exploring Philadelphia and the noticeable reduction in rainy days.

  • Dana Ebbecke
    Dana Ebbecke, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Research Coordinator

    Dana is a certified professional dog trainer with more than 15 years of experience working with dogs. Her passion is in animal behavior and welfare and spent five years working as a behavior specialist for the ASPCA in New York City and one year as a behavior coordinator at the Pennsylvania SPCA in Philadelphia. She holds a BA in psychological and social sciences from Penn State University and a graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis from Arcadia University.

    Dana has loved animals and animal behavior since she was a child. The opportunity to combine research and applied work at the WDC was a dream for her and she happily joined the team in 2020. Between her work at the WDC and her menagerie of pets and small children at home, life is never dull for her.

  • Molly Buis

    Research Coordinator
    Molly Buis

    Molly came to the Working Dog Center with a diverse background in the working dog field. She got “the bug” at age 11 when she fostered her first puppy for Leader Dogs for the Blind. Since then, Molly has fostered five guide dog puppies, volunteered as a search and rescue canine handler (HRD with K9 Pippi), managed a program for working dog outreach and education, trained dogs for research, and handled explosives detection dogs. Molly joined the PVWDC team in November 2022 and is excited to be working at the intersection of cutting-edge research and real-world application.

    In her free time, Molly enjoys riding and driving her horses, playing with her dog, and working on her small farm.

  • Madison Moore
    Madison Moore, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Research Assistant/Trainer

    Madison was a summer intern at the PVWDC as an undergraduate student in 2017. While earning her degree in Animal Behavior from Franklin & Marshall College, Madison conducted research on facial perception with capuchin monkeys, and on the relationship between oxpeckers and megafauna in Tanzania. After graduating, Madison worked as the lab coordinator for the Duke Canine Cognition Center. At Duke, she raised puppies through the assistance dog organization Canine Companions and studied how puppy cognition could predict future assistance dog success. Madison has been back at the PVWDC since 2021, and loves working as a researcher on olfaction and behavior projects. She is most passionate about the research and training of detection dogs for conservation purposes, and is proud of the team’s ongoing work with chronic wasting disease. Madison and her dog Anya enjoy hiking and volunteering with the Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad in their free time.

Training Team

  • Danielle Berger

    TrainerDanielle Berger, PV Working Dog Center

    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.

  • Kathryn Eland

    TrainerKathryn Eland, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Kathryn's dog training career began during an internship at Penn Vet Working Dog Center the summer of 2018. When the internship was over, she wanted to continue training dogs to help others. Kathryn took on an 8-week-old yellow lab, Mushu, in hopes of training him to be a service dog. After 2 years of working together, he graduated as a mobility service dog and began his role of helping someone in need. Mushu helped grow her knowledge of positive reinforcement, the effects of the human-canine-bond, and the never-ending wonders dogs can do.

    After graduating from University of Pittsburgh with a BS in Biological Sciences, Kathryn started working as a service dog trainer with Canine Companions. While working full time, Kathryn frequently volunteered with local Search and Rescue K9 teams and handlers to assist with trainings.

    In April 2022, Kathryn joined our team as a full-time trainer. This was a dream job for her since her internship and she is so happy to be back. She fell in love with the mission and helping reach each dog's full potential. She has trained dogs in our program that have graduated in Urban Search and Rescue, Dual Purpose Law Enforcement, and Single Purpose Scent Detection careers. Kathryn is a NASAR certified volunteer Search and Rescue K9 Handler for Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad with her own Dutch Shepherd, Valkyrie. In her time off, she enjoys hiking and reading.

  • Danny Eliasen

    Law Enforcement TrainerDanny Eliasen and P-Odie, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Danny Eliasen joined the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in March, 2019 as a Law Enforcement Trainer. Danny is a retired Sergeant First Class with the Glassboro Police Department in Glassboro, NJ.

    Throughout his career in law enforcement, Danny served as a trainer and supervisor for the Glassboro PD K9 Unit, is a NJ Certified Patrol and Scent Trainer, received his certification as a Supervisory K9 Trainer, and is also a USPCA certified Level 1 Patrol and Detector Dog Trainer.

    Danny is also proud to have handled two law enforcement K9s in his career – K9 Buster and K9 Kato, both were dual purpose Patrol/Narcotics detection K9s.

  • Alena Heyer

    TrainerAlena Heyer, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    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. She has been working with dogs for more than 10 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. She then received her certification as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Coach (CSCC) for dogs in January 2024. Alena continues to attend outside workshops and seminars to further her knowledge of the working dog world.

    Alena says, “I have been working with dogs for more than 10 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 3 dogs. In her free-time, Alena enjoys camping and hiking with her dogs. Alena is a NASAR Certified Search and Rescue K9 Handler for Lambertville-New Hope Ambulance and Rescue Squad with her Malinois.