Penn plays host to ‘the best trained dogs in the country’

Over the past several years, the Penn community has grown used to sharing the campus with the talented canines of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (WDC). This week, however, even more remarkable dogs found their way to Pennovation Works, where the WDC and the Penn Police jointly hosted the U.S. Police K-9 Association’s (USPCA) annual National Detector Dog Certification and Field Trials.

More than 50 K-9 teams from all over the country, each of whom received a qualifying score from their home region or state to reach this stage, were tested using facilities at Penn to judge the acuity of their detection abilities. Those that succeeded at this stage will receive national certification as detector dogs from the USPCA, the nation’s oldest and largest police K-9 association.

“We are proud to be hosting this special event, which highlights the best trained dogs in the country and the important work of canine units,” says Maureen Rush, vice president for public safety and superintendent of the Penn Police. “Our K-9 unit was launched in 2013, and consists currently of two explosive detection dogs trained in part by the Penn Vet Working Dog Center—an example of a great collaboration between a research institution and law enforcement.”

“Part of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center’s mission is to provide the support for police and working dogs to perform their life-saving work at the highest level possible,” says Cynthia Otto, executive director of the WDC. “These officers and their canines are dedicated to keeping our communities safe and we are pleased to be able to be a small part of the process that keeps them at the top of their game.”

About a year ago, the USPCA’s Region 6, which includes Philadelphia, stepped up to host this year’s trials. The WDC’s Annemarie DeAngelo, training director, and Bob Dougherty, a volunteer and training adjunct, who are both USPCA members, decided to try to make a bid to host the event. After joining forces with the Penn Police Department, their proposal was accepted.

“We thought it would be wonderful to highlight the facilities here and our relationship with law enforcement,” says Dougherty. “I think by the time folks leave here, they’ll have a much better understanding of the value of what we’re doing here at the WDC.”

The trials, which test dogs that have specialties in detecting narcotics, explosives, cadavers, and accelerants, made use of WDC facilities for room and vehicle searches as well as Penn Park’s Hollenbach Annex for additional detection events. These same facilities are used to train the WDC’s own puppies—a few of which Dougherty says will have no problem fulfilling the national certification when their time comes.

“I think, for instance, if I took Pierce and Pearl, two of the WDC dogs in training, and ran them through the certification tests,” he says, “they’d do well.”

Working Dog Detector