New school for working dogs opens in Philadelphia

September 11, 2012 1:22:08 PM PDT
Her face might be irresistible, but there's a whole lot more to this Labrador than looking cute. Socks is a member of the first class of Penn Vet's new Working Dog Center in Grays Ferry.

"There's a lot of art in dog training and raising dogs," said Executive Director Dr. Cynthia Otto. "Science is harder to come by, so we'd like to put that forward."

Otto responded to 9-11 and a month later began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue Team canines, like now 14-year old Bretagne.

She says the work of the K-9s and their handlers at Ground Zero, like three honored here on Tuesday, inspired her to establish this center, 11 years in the making and funded by private donations.

"There's a shortage of detection dogs and a lot of dogs we do have are imported," said Otto. "We'd like more homegrown pups."

Each of the new class of seven is named after the K-9 heroes of 9-11, like Sirius.

Sirius was the only working dog killed when the towers collapsed. Many canines and handlers were there that day, and many others followed, searching the rubble for survivors. Sarah Atlas was among them.

"It brought us together as a country," said Sarah. "It also brought attention for the need for these dogs and the type of work they do."

Scientific, behavioral, and health approaches will be used to train these pups. All were donated by carefully screened breeders.

The dogs were presented to their new foster families with whom they will live on nights and weekends. Five days a week for the next year, the pups will learn critical information to become successful working dogs.

Eventually pups like Socks will continue on to specialized fields like detecting narcotics, bombs, even cancer.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: pennvetwdc.org.


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