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 70 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 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 and the 2019 International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium Mark Bloomberg Award.

    Advisory Positions

    • USAR Veterinary Group – 2007 - present
    • Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthoganol Detector Guidelines 2011-2014
    • NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Dogs and Sensors Subgroup 2014-present
    • National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Organization of ScientificArea 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
    • Vaika 2019-present


  • 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.

    Vicki is an avid hiker and is slowly working her way through the Appalachian Trail.

  • 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. 

  • Pat Kaynaroglu

    Training ManagerPat Kaynaroglu, Working Dog Center

    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.

  • Bob Dougherty

    Law Enforcement Training CoordinatorBob Dougherty, Working Dog Center

    Bob is a certified USPCA Level 1 Patrol Dog and Detector Trainer, Regional Judge for PD1, National Detector Judge, and has attended numerous training seminars to include decoy training seminars, and explosive and narcotics detector training seminars over the years to learn how to “help” both dogs and handlers be their best.

    Open to learning all training methodologies and philosophies from various sources (police, sport and civilian trainers), Bob’s personal moral code is to never be cruel in the training of dogs in general as well as patience 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 in a career which will demand operational applications outside the training environment, and removing the conflict which can occur between a dog and handler/trainer due to harsh and or premature physical pressure before a dog understands what is expected of him or her. Bob believes that trainers need to be passionate about what they do, actively involved and not just sitting back evaluating from afar, and continuously seek new knowledge and skills for the dog and not for their own personal egos.

Medical Team

  • Meghan Ramos, VMD

    Research FellowDr. Meghan Ramos, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Dr. Ramos is a Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation resident at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.She received her VMD in 2018 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine.

    Following graduation, Dr. Ramos began her veterinary specialty internship while simultaneously pursuing a National Institutes of Health funded Master in Translational Research through the Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics at the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine.

    Dr. Ramos is ecstatic to begin her journey as a Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation resident as she is dedicated to advancing the field of canine sports medicine via scientifically valid clinical trials and advanced diagnostics that will benefit not only our elite working dogs but will impact the canine community at large. 

  • 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 EducationLee 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

    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.


  • Ruth Desiderio

    Tessa Desiderio, Penn Vet Working Dog CenterVolunteer & Outreach Coordinator

    Ruth Desiderio joined the Working Dog Center 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 looks forward to welcoming her first grandchild this summer. She loves the outdoors, particularly hiking and exploring new places. A dog-owner since birth, Ruth has primarily adopted mixed breeds, with the exception of her beloved greyhound, Tessa, who passed away in 2018.

    In all of her professional and personal endeavors, Ruth has been energized by the people with whom she works. She is excited to develop relationships with volunteers, students 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).

  • Kristen Gregory

    Operations and Finance Administrative CoordinatorKristen Gregory

    Kristen Gregory joined the Working Dog Center after over a decade working in chemosensory research at The Monell Chemical Senses Center starting off as a Research Technician before working her way up to Laboratory Manager.

    In her time at Monell, Kristen collaborated with multi-functional research teams on local and international projects involving the neural and behavioral function of the human olfactory system. She worked alongside lead scientists, regulatory agencies, post docs and volunteers on human participant olfactory research using a range of experimental methods including, functional brain imaging, psychophysiological measures, psychophysical and behavioral tests. During her time at Monell, Kristen was recruited as a member of Monell's Safety Committee and was responsible for monitoring safety compliance and the SOPs of the employees and the laboratories at the center.

    A graduate of Philadelphia University (now Jefferson College) with a Bachelor of Science in biological psychology; Kristen’s long-term goal has always been to work in the animal behavior field and was thrilled to join the PVWDC community in 2022 as the Operations and Finance Administrative Coordinator and contribute to the center’s mission.

    In her free time Kristen enjoys knitting, sewing, and writing. In addition, hiking with her partner and their retired assisted animal therapy dog, Yuma, who brought many smiles to the veterans at the Philadelphia VA as well as the children in the care of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Research Team

  • Jennifer Essler, PhD

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

    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 selection and training process. At the Working Dog Center, she is working on a collaborative project investigating the genotype and phenotype of working dogs.

  • 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 behavior consultant and dog trainer with 15 years of experience working with dogs. She 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. She shares her home with several dogs, periodic foster dogs, and a cat (affectionately referred to as their zoo), as well as her partner and their toddler.

  • Madison Moore
    Madison Moore, Penn Vet Working Dog Center

    Research Assistant

    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 loved her time as an PVWDC intern and is excited to be back working as a researcher on canine olfaction projects! Her main interests are on the research and training of detection dogs for conservation purposes, such as chronic wasting disease in deer.

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.

  • Molly Buis

    TrainerMolly 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.

  • 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 moved to Santa Rosa, California in 2019 to start her career as an Apprentice Instructor with Canine Companions for Independence. From there, she moved to Columbus, OH to continue her career with Canine Companions. While working full time as a service dog trainer, Kathryn frequently volunteered with local Search and Rescue K9 teams and handlers to assist with trainings. Now, she is training her own Dutch Shepherd as a Search and Rescue K9. 

    In April 2022, Kathryn joined our team as a full time trainer in April 2022. 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. 

  • 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 3-4 times a week. She has been working with dogs for more than 9 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 9 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: Casey. In her free-time, Alena enjoys camping and hiking with her dogs.