our team

Dogs for Defense is composed of some of the greatest canine specialists in the world, gathered primarily from military and law enforcement backgrounds.  Dogs for Defense has set out to create a team of highly experienced professionals who can rapidly adapt to any situation.  Dogs for Defense’s culture is built on professionalism with family values.

Copy of Kristin Hughes, Owner & President

Kristin A. Hughes

Owner & President

Kristin Hughes is the co-founder, owner and president.  Over the years Kristin has grown this company from one K-9 team to what it is today by focusing on the government and large corporate customer. She has been able to secure contracts throughout the government across the United States and internationally.  She negotiated and developed numerous partnerships and a successful joint venture. Above all, Kristin sets the corporate culture, built on professionalism and family values.  

Kristin is married to Dan Hughes (CEO) and the mother of 5 young children. They live in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.  

Kristin earned a Bachelor of Science in both Elementary Education and Early Childhood Education from University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. While teaching Kindergarten in Little Ferry, New Jersey, Kristin continued in her own education by earning a Master of Arts in Special Education from Felician University in Rutherford, New Jersey.

Kristin is active in the Saint Mary’s Help of Christian school community, and is a 3rd generation Girl Scout leader, leading her 2 daughters’ Girl Scout troops.  

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Dan Hughes

Chief Executive Officer

Certifier / TSA 3PK9 Evaluator

K-9 Trainer & Senior Handler

Dan Hughes is the company’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. Dan’s professional career started out as a Special Agent with the United States Secret Service. Dan spent 5 years in the New York Field Office and during that time he survived the collapse of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. He was assigned to the Technical Operations Squad, a spur of the Technical Security Division. He underwent extensive training and was signed off as a TSD Advance Coordinator. It was in this role during his years with the Secret Service that he was introduced to explosive detection dogs, first as a supervisor and coordinator and later as the first Special Agent K-9 handler for the US Secret Service.

At the conception of Dogs for Defense, Dan held many of the initial positions, which included working in Iraq and Afghanistan for 5 years. Dan was a Kennel Master and K-9 handler on a mobile team that traversed the country for the US State Department. Dogs for Defense then assigned Dan to a Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms contract to fill the role of contracted ATF K-9 Trainer for over 6 years. This contract also tasked Dan with Pre-Deployment training of the US Military under a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) program and US State Department Anti-Terrosism Assistance (ATA) training for foreign national law enforcement.

Dan is a US Army certified handler of an explosive detection dog, a US Army certified handler of a drug detection dog, and has been certified by the Transportation Security Administration as a Third Party Cargo (3PK9) evaluator.

Dan is married to Kristin Hughes (President) and they live with their 5 children in Saint Cloud, Minnesota.

Dan obtained his Bachelor of Science from the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota. As a Marauder, Dan was a two time All-American, and a National Champion in wrestling. He is now a two time member of the University of Mary, Hall of Fame.  

Dan is a wrestler and enjoys raising the next generation of wrestlers. Dan can often be found cruising in an old Volkswagen.

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Mark Blumberg

Retired Saint Paul Police

Regional Manager

Senior Handler

Mark Blumberg spent over 15 years working the streets of St. Paul, Minnesota as a police officer. Over those years he held many roles, but none more impactful than that of K-9 Handler. If you are lucky you may even catch a rerun of the TV show K-9 Cops, featuring Mark and his K-9 Cobra. It was his experience and passion as a police K-9 handler that led Mark to Dogs for Defense.

Mark is a US Army certified handler of an explosive detection dog and a drug detection dog. He managed the US Army Rock Island Arsenal contract and has been a valued member on other US Army and Department of Defense projects. 

Mark lives with his wife, Gail, in Holy Cross, Iowa and spends lots of time with their daughter and twin grandchildren.

In 1979, Mark became an Intensive Care Paramedic through the program at Inver Hills Community College. Mark obtained his AAS Law Enforcement degree from Normandale Community College.

Mark is an avid adventure motorcycle rider and has ridden his BMW from Northern Alaska across the United States.

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Henry Johnson

US Military Combat Veteran

K-9 Trainer & Handler

Henry Johnson has had a storied career with the US Military and as a contractor for the US Government. He began his career in 1993 with the Marine Corps . He later transitioned to the US Army where he was deployed to Kosovo with the Civil Affairs Team. Henry operated as a Team Leader under the Special Operations Command while in Iraq.

Following a successful military career Henry worked as a contractor for the US State Department in Afghanistan and Iraq.

After almost 10 years in combat environments overseas, Henry went back to rural Wisconsin. He then joined Dogs for Defense as a handler and trainer.

Henry is a certified US Army handler with an explosive detection dog and a drug detection dog.

Henry lives in rural Birchwood, Wisconsin with his wife, Mandy. Henry has two adult children and a growing number of grandchildren.

Henry studied at the University of Wisconsin, Steven’s Point.

Henry is a naturalist and enjoys growing his own food, making maple syrup and cultivating honey. When he is not at home, he is outdoors on an adventure, which usually includes his motorcycle and the open countryside.


Jason Stinson

California Law Enforcement Officer

Certifier / TSA 3PK9 Evaluator

K-9 Trainer & Handler

Jason Stinson brings one of the most diverse K-9 backgrounds to the team. Jason Stinson has over 25 years of experience with working canines. Jason has been a law enforcement officer in California for many years, but has interrupted that time for extended deployments overseas with K-9s.

From 2004 to 2007, Jason held the roles of trainer, kennel master and program manager of one of the Department of Defense’s largest wartime contracts located in Kandahar, Afghanistan.  Following his time in Afghanistan, Jason transitioned to Iraq, first in Basrah and later in Bagdad, where he worked on a Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO) special integration project. He operated as a team leader and dog handler utilizing K-9s to track suspected terrorists.

In Papua, Indonesia, Jason operated as an embedded trainer, advisor and handler, instructing over 45 Indonesian Police and security personnel in combat tracking through the jungles.

Jason is an evaluator under the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) Third Party Canine Cargo (3PK9) program. He is also judge for the National Association of Canine Scent Work (NACSW).

Jason lives with his wife, Tatiana, and their 2 young boys in Grover Beach, California.

In between deployments and his busy work schedule, Jason has pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree from California Coast University in Criminal Justice.

 Jason enjoys sharing his hobbies with his children, playing video games and building scale models.

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Jeff O’Donnell

US Army Veteran

Pennsylvania Constable

Senior Handler

Jeff began his career working with canines in July of 1974, as a Sentry Dog Handler for the US Army. At the tail end of the Vietnam War, Jeff was tasked with protecting the US Embassy in Saigon until the final evacuation.

Jeff finished his military career in 1977 after a lengthy deployment to Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) in Korea.

Since 1977 Jeff has been a sworn law enforcement officer at several police departments in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He is currently a Pennsylvania State Constable. During his incredible career, Jeff spent much of it as a K-9 handler working several certified police K-9s.

Jeff is a recipient of the Dupont Kevlar Survivors award for surviving a life threatening injury while serving as a police officer.

Jeff lives in Enola, Pennsylvania.

Jeff attended Union College in Cranford, New Jersey.

Jeff enjoys working on vehicles and gunsmithing in his free time.

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Steve Pearson

Retired Brooklyn Park Police

Certifier / TSA 3PK9 Evaluator

K-9 Trainer

Steve Pearson comes to Dogs for Defense with over 30 years of experience in the canine industry. He owns his own business, Performance Kennels, which has been importing the finest working dogs for over 2 decades.

Steve was a Brooklyn Park police officer for 22 years, retiring as a Lieutenant. During that time, he was a K-9 handler, trainer or supervisor for the majority of his career.

Steve has been a trial judge and certifying official for the United States Police Canine Association, the National Police Canine Association and is now an evaluator under the TSA’s Third Party Canine Cargo initiative.

Steve has been the head trainer of over 100 courses for law enforcement K-9 handlers. He has trained dogs in all aspects of traditional law enforcement and has ventured out into the more unique detection roles K-9s take on. Steve was instrumental in the early training of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invasive species program that countered zebra and quagga mussels. He has pioneered the wildlife and conservation detection training. He has trained K-9 teams for anti-poaching that include detection and tracking.

Steve lives with his wife Stacy in Buffalo, Minnesota and has 4 adult children, 2 of them currently serving in the Marine Corps.

Steve obtained his formal law enforcement education from both Normandale College and University of Minnesota.

Steve enjoys fishing and has spent countless hours on the ice of a youth hockey arena.


Jen Kuseske

Veterinarian Technician

Director of Canine Welfare

Jen Kuseske came to Dogs for Defense as veterinarian technician and the experienced manager of a large veterinarian clinic.

Jen has been instrumental in the development of Dog for Defense’s trademarked, “Dog First” philosophy. That philosophy is simple, the better cared for dog, is a better performing dog. Dogs for Defense will always strive to provide the best for their dogs.  

Jen developed the Individual Canine Report (ICR), recognizing that each dog is its own individual, needing specific, tailored care. Working with the veterinarian, trainers and handlers, Jen can put together an ICR optimizing the canine’s care by identifying the best food and quantity, required training and exercise, in addition to several other individualized components.

Jen coordinates, tracks and manages all K-9 health records and ICRs for all the Dogs for Defense K-9s across the country. 

Jen lives with her partner Mark in South Haven, Minnesota with their 3 children.

Jen obtained her Veterinarian Technician degrees from Globe University and Minnesota School of Business.

Jen enjoys breeding American Kennel Club (AKC) French Bulldogs and spending time outdoors with her active family.