Penn Vet Working Dog Center is ready to sit and stay


Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Cindy Otto, director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, with Bret the Golden Retriever.

The Penn Vet Working Dog Center has been operating as a virtual research-and-training facility since its creation in 2007, but it now has a real home at 3401 Grays Ferry Ave.

Located at Penn’s new South Bank site in Grays Ferry, the Center provides the program with a space specifically designed for the study of search-and-rescue dogs, and the training of future working dogs.

The Center plans to celebrate its grand opening on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 10:30 a.m. and the Penn community is invited. To RSVP for the events, contact Sarah Griffith at 215-989-2211 or email 

At the Center, “we can test some of our theories in our own dogs…we can look at the genetics, and their health, and their behavior,” says Cindy Otto, the Center’s director and an associate professor at Penn Vet.

In the Center’s first class of canines, seven puppies will undergo a yearlong training program at the new facility. When they graduate, two will become part of Penn’s Division of Public Safety’s police force. The remaining dogs will be sold to organizations that need highly trained working canines, such as local police departments, the Transportation Security Administration, and the military.


Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Thunder, one of the puppies in the Center’s first class. Thunder is named after a 9/11 search-and-rescue dog.

During the year, the puppies undergoing training will live with foster families, who will drop off the dogs in the morning for training at the Center and pick them up at the end of the day.

“It gives the puppies the best of both worlds,” says Otto. “They get to live with families and learn how to adapt to that kind of lifestyle, which will be the way they will live when they’re working and living with their handlers.” 

The Center was created after Otto served on a team that used working dogs to search for survivors following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. At the building’s grand opening, the dogs that served in 9/11 search-and-rescue missions will be honored.

All of the puppies in the Center’s first class—Bretagne, Kaiserin, Morgan, PApa Bear, Sirius, Socks, and Thunder—are named after 9/11 search-and-rescue dogs.

Several of the 9/11 search-and-rescue dogs, along with their handlers, are expected to attend the Center’s grand opening.

For more information about volunteering, fostering, and donating to the Center, visit the Penn Vet Working Dog Center website.

Originally published on August 30, 2012