Established in 2007, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, is part of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine and serves as a national research and development center for detection dogs. With the United States national security under constant threat from attacks, detection dogs are still the best tool that we have to detect and mitigate potential threats. Search dogs are also critical for the detection of victims of natural and man-made disasters.
Our goal is to increase collaborative research, scientific assessment, and shared knowledge and application of the newest scientific findings and veterinary expertise to optimize production of valuable detection dogs.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Determine optimal strategies for screening, rearing, and training detection dogs.
- Provide tools including genetic material, breeding stock, and semen.
- Design physical health screening and conditioning programs.
Leverage expertise in the following to generate advances in detection dogs:
- canine genetics
- emergency medicine
- clinical trials
- Collaboration with successful community based programs to involve prisons and youth-at-risk programs in the puppy socialization and early training of the dogs from our program.
- Enhance the ability to identify successful detection dog candidates from shelters or rescues.
Cynthia M. Otto, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVECC
Dr. Otto, a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 from 1994 to 2010, began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue canines in October of 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. This work inspired her to establish the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.
She has also been involved in disaster medicine as a member of the Veterinary Medical Assistance Team – 2 since1999.
Dr. Otto is a board-certified emergency and critical care veterinarian and a tenured associate professor of Critical Care at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine and was named Pennsylvania’s 2002 “Veterinarian of the Year” and received an Alumni Recognition Award in 2006 and the OSU Distinguished Alumus Award in 2008 from the Ohio State University.
She is actively involved in dog sports (flyball, agility, and tricks), and also provides pet therapy in the Philadelphia area, with her rescued Bichon mix, Dolce.
Sarah has worked for Atlantic County Government, for AtlantiCare Behavioral Health, for The Arc of Atlantic County and at Gilda’s Club South Jersey, where she was CEO. She was the first chair of the Atlantic County Women’s Commission and was a volunteer family mediator with the Community Justice Institute for many years. She has served on the boards of local non-profits, including CASA, and also served as the Chair of the Port Republic Environmental Commission in the 1980’s.
She graduated with a Liberal B.A. from the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey and from the University of Warwick in Coventry England, with an MA in Politics.
Sarah and her husband Jan Colijn live in Port Republic, New Jersey with their beagle. Their daughter, Cory, also works at the University of Pennsylvania where she is a graduate student.
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 graduated from the University of Northern Colorado with a B.A. in Special Education. Her dogs have been used as therapy dogs in her special education classrooms. She coordinated the “Cody Project”, a community service program using school students to train search dogs. She received a Teacher of the Year Award from the Kids in Need Foundation in 2010.
Pat has worked with volunteers in many non-profits. She was Director of PA Special Olympic Equestrian Events, an instructor at Thorncroft Equestrian Center, Director of the Upper Main Line YMCA “Open Doors” Program, and President and Volunteer Coordinator for Lake County Search and Rescue.
Pat has been a search dog handler since 1992. She is a FEMA Urban Search and Rescue Canine Search Specialist, Evaluator, and Instructor.
Pat and her husband Hakan love the outdoors and have a mountain home in Colorado.
Kathleen M. Kelsey, MS, MBA
Kathleen graduated from the University of Missouri with an MS in Animal Science and her MBA from Columbia College. Before joining the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, she worked with Purina Mills providing nutritional programs for dog owners across the Midwest and as a Veterinary Technician at a large practice in Kansas City.
She has been involved with Urban Search and Rescue since 2003 as a Canine Search Specialist with Missouri Task Force One. Her experience as a trainer, combined with her interest in research, drew her to the mission of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center.
Kathleen continues to deploy with Missouri Task Force One with current partner, an American Bull Dog Mix, ChicoDog. Kathleen is also a member of McClean County EMA with her Human Remains Detection dog, a German Shepherd Dog, Zach. She is also enjoying training the new sport of Nosework with her retired USAR partner, a Dutch Shepherd named Calvary.
Megan E. Brown
Megan graduated cum laude in 2009 from West Chester University of Pennsylvania with a BA in Psychology. It was there she became interested in veterinary medicine and research and decided to pursue a career as a veterinary assistant.
She joined the Penn Vet Working Dog Center in the summer of 2010 and has been involved with the various projects at the center since.
When not working on data for one of the studies or as a veterinary assistant, she enjoys her 7 animals: 2 dogs, Marley & Fez; 4 cats, Lynx, Lumen, Lily and Mia; and a ball python named Sheldon.
Ashley Crandall enlisted in the Army at the age of 17 with the intent of becoming a Veterinary Technician. While that did not happen, she became a helicopter mechanic instead, she never forgot her dream of working with animals. After three deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, she ended up as a patient at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, DC. While there, Ashley took part in a program training service dogs called Paws for Purple Hearts. After being medically retired she received her own service dog, Jasmine, from Puppies Behind Bars. Both organizations believe in the power of rehabilitation through the training of working dogs and have passed that belief onto Ashley. She is now in the process of enrolling back in school to finally become a Veterinary Technician.
The Mission Continues challenges veterans to serve and lead in communities across America. Through the Fellowship Program, The Mission Continues awards six-month community service fellowships to post-9/11 veterans. Fellows serve 20 hours/week at a local nonprofit organization addressing key educational, environmental or social issues. The Mission Continues also executes service projects nationwide to engage civilians to serve alongside veterans to better their communities. Visit their website to learn more about The Mission Continues www.missioncontinues.org.