A new facility set to train detection dogs for search-and-rescue missions and to study the science of what makes dog detection succeed or fail opened at the University of Pennsylvania yesterday.
According to NPR, the Penn Vet Working Dog Center was established by Cynthia Otto, who used working dogs to search for survivors in the rubble at ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks. Otto is a veterinarian who specializes in emergency, critical care and disaster medicine.
She has also been a military consultant for search-and-rescue dogs and worked with the government on Cairo, the Navy SEAL dog that helped take down Osama bin Laden and raised an interest in war dog adoptions across the U.S.
Otto spoke about this trend to NPR. “Originally [dogs were] kind of looked at as [a] patrol dog or [a] bomb-detection dog, but now they’re being used to find the IEDs [improved explosive devices]… they’re starting to look at all of the different potential components that these dogs can contribute to…and the detection area is so important because these dogs are better than any machine that we have — and they can save lives,” she said.
Otto said that one of the issues the new center will be working on is keeping working dogs hydrated while they’re out in the field.
“We’re very actively working on [that] at this time because these dogs are so focused on what they’re doing [while they're working],” she told NPR. “They’re really intent, and so they’re just gonna keep on doing it and they forget that they need to have a drink.”
The center will also focus on training dogs to find survivors in emergency situations.
Otto said, “It’s very important that they’re trained to very quickly identify a concealed person, and that allows them to work in an area where there are a lot of other people that are visible but aren’t concealed … The urgency with the live find is really what’s important, because we have such limited time to be successful.”
To learn more about the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, or to make a contribution to help its service dogs, visit its website.