Two recent School of Veterinary Medicine graduates will be joining the SEPTA police force. One German Shepherd and one Dutch Shepherd.
Wednesday morning, SEPTA officers Javier Class and Cory Fox officially joined their new canine partners, Ronnie and Kaiserin, who are beginning training for their new explosives detection work with the SEPTA police force.
Ronnie and Kaiserin are the second and third graduates of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the center’s executive director Cindy Otto said. The first graduate, Officer Socks, is currently working as a explosive detection dog for the Division of Public Safety.
Otto described the program as the dogs’ “liberal arts degree,” teaching them all the basic skills, like obedience, agility and searching.
The dogs have already been working with their handlers for a few weeks, but only a couple of days ago they started SEPTA’s explosive detection training. Otto said the dogs are easily learning explosive training because after their training at the Working Dog Center, they already understand “the concept of the game.”
Ronnie and Kaiserin demonstrated what they’ve learned so far at yesterday’s ceremony, using the center’s scent wall, a training apparatus that was built by Penn engineering students, Otto said. It is comprised of a number of PVC pipes with holes that allow the dogs to perform a “systematic search” to sniff out where the explosive is.
The dogs will be working alongside the officers in the field by mid-April. They will also take part in a 14-week training program for police work, learning skills like criminal apprehension and building searches, said SEPTA police inspector Teresa Clark, who also attended the ceremony.
The event Wednesday also recognized Cathy Voln Elm and 1992 Penn Vet graduate Gia Croce and her husband Tim Bulman, who fostered Ronnie and Kaiserin, respectively. Both sets of foster parents received a framed collage of photos of them with their dog as a keepsake of the experience.
“We’re really excited to be working with SEPTA because they’re local,” Otto said, adding that this is a great way to strengthen their relationship with SEPTA in general.
Clark echoed Otto’s confidence in the continued partnership between Penn and SEPTA. She said that it would likely inspire other police agencies to look to Penn for new canine additions to their teams since it’s clear that the dogs “are coming from one of the best facilities there is.”