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Working Dog Center Press Releases

Penn Vet Working Dog Center Celebrates One-Year Anniversary with Puppy Graduation Ceremony

By John Donges Published: Sep 24, 2013

Yellow Labrador Retriever, Socks, to Join Penn Police as First Canine Cadet

[September 24, 2013; Philadelphia, PA] – The Penn Vet Working Dog Center today celebrated its one-year anniversary with a special event that highlighted the Working Dog Center, anniversaryprogram’s achievements and featured a puppy graduation ceremony and live search demonstrations. Socks, a yellow Labrador Retriever, graduated from the program and will start her new training with the Penn Police as its first canine cadet. During the event, leaders from across the University spoke, including Penn’s Executive Vice President Craig Carnaroli, who fostered Socks; Penn Vet Dean Joan Hendricks; Dr. Cindy Otto, Executive Director of the Working Dog Center; and Maureen Rush, Vice President for Public Safety at Penn.

About the Center

Opened on September 11, 2012, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center is the nation’s premier research and training facility dedicated to the health and performance of detection dogs. The 16 dogs in the program, each named after a dog that served on 9/11, were donated by breeders from across the country and fostered by dedicated volunteers.

As core training progresses, the dogs begin to specialize in areas of detection that best suit them, from sniffing out explosives and uncovering drug stashes to finding missing people and even detecting cancer. For more information, visit

“I am constantly impressed by the dogs as they surpass our expectations during training,” said Dr. Otto. “We are truly producing some of the best-trained detection dogs in the world. I feel so honored to be working with these incredible dogs and to be developing a program that will ultimately help save lives.”

Canine Graduates

Dogs from the inaugural class are now ready to graduate from the program and take on new challenges. Thunder, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, will go on to pursue search and rescue training. PApa Bear, a chocolate Labrador Retriever, and Bretagne, a Golden Retriever, will train as diabetic alert dogs. Local police and fire departments have also expressed significant interest in the remaining dogs.

In her new role with the Penn Police, Socks will join Officer Julie Wesley for ordnance (explosives) detection training, which will last for 13 weeks. Photos of Socks and Officer Wesley are available here.  

“It is a tremendous benefit for us to utilize such a wonderful Penn program,” said Rush. “As a Working Dog Center graduate, Socks received the best training possible. We know that she will be an invaluable asset to our team.”

New Endeavors

Within the next two years, the Working Dog Center plans to launch an in-house breeding program. By placing Socks with the Penn Police, she will be readily accessible for breeding with other top-tier detection dogs.

Exciting, new projects are also underway. Members of the second group of dogs to join the program, Ohlin, a chocolate Labrador Retriever; McBaine, a Springer Spaniel; and Tsunami, a German Shepherd, are in training to detect early-stage ovarian cancer in women.

As the Working Dog Center looks to the future, the legacy of the inaugural class will be carried forth by the next generation of puppies, including newcomers Pacy, Ditto, Jesse P, and Gus.

About Penn Vet

Penn Vet is a global leader in veterinary medicine education, research, and clinical care. Founded in 1884, Penn Vet is the only veterinary school developed in association with a medical school. The school is a proud member of the One Health Initiative, linking human, animal, and environmental health.

Penn Vet serves a diverse population of animals at its two campuses, which include extensive diagnostic and research laboratories. Ryan Hospital in Philadelphia provides care for dogs, cats, and other domestic/companion animals, seeing nearly 33,000 patients a year. New Bolton Center, Penn Vet’s large-animal hospital on nearly 700 acres in rural Kennett Square, PA, cares for horses and livestock/farm animals. In addition to treating about 6,000 patients annually, New Bolton Center includes a swine center, working dairy, and poultry unit that provide valuable research for the agriculture industry.

For more information, visit