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Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Serving Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties

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Officers Ronnie and Kaiserin Reporting for Duty

Heather Redfern
SEPTA Public Information Manager

SEPTA's Police Department grew by eight paws - yes, paws - with the addition of its latest recruits: Ronnie, a 14-month old German Shepherd, and Kaiserin (Kai) an almost two-year old Dutch Shepherd. The newest members of SEPTA's K-9 unit are Ivy Leaguers, having recently graduated from the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (WDC).

"Our Center is dedicated to producing amazing detection dogs for public safety and human health," said Dr. Cindy Otto, the WDC's director. "I know that Ronnie and Kai will excel in their roles at SEPTA because of the real-life training they have received and the unique fitness program they have been exposed to."

WDC dogs begin their training when they are eight-weeks old - almost a year before most canines begin similar programs. Throughout the process, WDC staff assesses which line of work best suits each dog, such as search and rescue and medical detection of diseases such as ovarian cancer and diabetes. "Ronnie and Kai liked search and detection games," Otto joked.

"The preparation Ronnie and Kai have already received at Penn has given them a terrific foundation and puts them well on their way to joining our K-9 unit on duty at our stations and throughout the system," said SEPTA Police Inspector Terri Clark. Ronnie and Kai are now participating in a 10-week explosive and scent detection training, followed by a 14-week program that covers patrol work and criminal apprehension. When finished with their schooling, Ronnie and Kai will join 13 other dogs in SEPTA's K-9 unit.

"The dogs are invaluable. There are no machines that are as accurate as dogs' noses," said SEPTA PD's Sergeant Donn Wagner. "The members of our K-9 unit help keep the system running, especially in cases of unattended packages. Without the dogs, we'd have to wait for the bomb squad to get to the location, which could halt service for some time. The dogs can clear a package quickly, keeping stations open and vehicles moving."

Working with Ronnie and Kai are their officers, Javier Class and Corey Fox, respectively. The dogs are not only part of the SEPTA Police force, they live with the officers. "I have a 17-year old son and a five-year old daughter," said Class, a 10-year SEPTA PD veteran. "Ronnie fits right in with my family."

The WDC opened on September 11, 2012. Kai was a member of the Center's inaugural class and Ronnie's training was sponsored by Wawa. The dogs are named after canines that served on September 11, 2001. In addition to training dogs for service before leaving the WDC, Penn Vet will also monitor the dogs throughout the rest of their lives with regular check-ups.

"Most search and detection dogs work until they are about 10," said Wagner. "Dr. Otto and the staff want to see how the dogs' hips and joints hold up in their line of work and whether or not exercises prescribed by the WDC can prolong the dogs' careers."


(From left) Penn Vet WDC Director Dr. Cindy Otto, SEPTA PD Inspector Terri Clark and Officers Corey Fox and Javier Class celebrated the graduation of Kai and Ronnie.



Officer Class and Ronnie demonstrate a scent training exercise.



While at the WDC, Kai was fostered by Dr. Gia Croce and Tim Bulman. They were reunited at the graduation ceremony.



Inspector Clark and Penn Vet staff play with the WDC's newest dogs-in-training (photo courtesy of Penn Vet).