Dr. Otto is a tenured professor of Working Dog Sciences & Sports Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, School of Veterinary Medicine, after 23 years as an attending clinician in the Emergency Service, in 2015 she transitioned to full-time Executive Director of the Penn Vet Working Dogs Center and Canine Sports Medicine clinician. Dr. Otto is board-certified in both veterinary emergency and critical care and veterinary sports medicine. She oversees the fitness and medical care of the detection dogs in the program, and the rehabilitation and conditioning for police and other working dogs
She has been involved in disaster medicine as a member of the Pennsylvania Urban Search and Rescue Task Force 1 from 1994 to 2010 and Veterinary Medical Assistance Team – 2 from 1999 to 2016. She began monitoring the health and behavior of Urban Search and Rescue dogs in October of 2001 after serving as a first responder for the 9/11 attacks. This work inspired her to establish the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, the premier national research and development program for detection dogs.
Her research program has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the American Heart Association, the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, American Kennel Club Companion Animal Recovery, Morris Animal Foundation, Kleberg Foundation, Kaleidoscope of Hope and other foundations. Her research on and by detection dogs, includes studies of exercise, hydration, factors affecting olfaction, predictors of working success, medical detection of both human (e.g. cancer, infection and COVID-19) and animal (chronic wasting disease) disease. She has published over 70 articles in peer reviewed journals, authored over 10 book chapters and lectured nationally and internationally on Emergency Medicine, Disaster Medicine and Working Dogs.
She was named Pennsylvania’s 2002 “Veterinarian of the Year” and received an Alumni Recognition Award in 2006 and the OSU Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2008 from the Ohio State University. The Philadelphia Kennel Club named her “Dog’s Best Friend” in 2016. Dr. Otto was also the recipient of the 2018 AVMA Bustad Companion Animal of the Year Award and the 2019 International Canine Sports Medicine Symposium Mark Bloomberg Award.
- USAR Veterinary Group – 2007 - present
- Scientific Working Group on Dog and Orthoganol Detector Guidelines 2011-2014
- NIST Organization of Scientific Area Committees (OSAC) Dogs and Sensors Subgroup 2014-present
- National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Organization of ScientificArea Committees (OSAC) Dogs and Sensors2014-Present
- American Academy of Forensic Science (AAFS) Standards Board, Dogs and Sensors Consensus Body, Vice-Chair 2016-Present
- Pennsylvania Veterinary Medical Association Ad Hoc Committee on Operational K9s 2017-2019
- Subject Matter Expert Homeland Security Information Network 2017-Present
- Explosives Detection Canine Capacity Building Working Group 2019 – 2020
- Vaika 2019-present