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Dr. Cynthia Otto awarded for her work with the human-animal bond

By Michael San Filippo | 847-285-6687 | Published: May 10, 2018

Dr. Cynthia Otto(SCHAUMBURG, Illinois) May 10, 2018—Dr. Cynthia Otto, founder and executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center at the University of Pennsylvania, has been named the winner of the 2018 Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award.

Named in honor of the late Leo K. Bustad, an internationally recognized pioneer in the field of human-animal interactions, the Bustad Award is one of three American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) Animal Welfare and Human Animal Bond Excellence Awards sponsored and funded by Merck Animal Health. It is presented to an AVMA member veterinarian in recognition of their outstanding work in preserving and protecting the human-animal bond.

Dr. Michael J. Topper, president of the AVMA, will present the award to Dr. Otto at the 2018 AVMA Convention in Denver on Friday, July 13.

“The commitment and passion Dr. Otto has shown in her day-to-day work that explores and supports relationships between working dogs and their owners shows how highly she values the connections that exist between people and the animals with which we share our planet,” said Dr. Michael J. Topper, president of the AVMA. “Bestowing her with this award is a fitting tribute to Dr. Bustad, an outstanding educator, scientist, humanitarian and pioneer in the field of human-animal interactions.”

Dr. Otto is associate professor of critical care in the Department of Clinical Studies and Advanced Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. She has been practicing veterinary medicine for more than 30 years. In addition to her doctor of veterinary medicine degree, Dr. Otto has a PhD in veterinary physiology and is double board certified in veterinary emergency and critical care and veterinary sports medicine and rehabilitation.

In her capacity as founder and executive director of the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, Dr. Otto has made substantive contributions to fundamental and clinical research on working and performance dogs. Dr. Otto founded the center after being inspired by her work monitoring the health and behavior of search-and-rescue dogs while serving as a first responder for the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Through her work at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center, Dr. Otto provides rehabilitation, fitness and conditioning training to working dogs, including those involved in law enforcement, search and rescue, and sporting events. The center has made tremendous strides in advancing the human-animal bond through research, education and the study of all facets of canine performance, as well as the interaction of dogs with their handlers and human partners. The program further enhances the human-animal bond by placing puppies with area foster families.

In addition to her work with the specialty working dog community, Dr. Otto has been the faculty advisor for Penn Vet’s pet visitation program, VetPets, for 15 years. Her own rescued dog, Dolce, visits the children at the Ronald McDonald House and participates in de-stress events with Penn Vet students.

“I am incredibly honored to receive the Bustad Award,” said Dr. Otto. “This award was made possible by the animals in my life! Especially, my dog, Dolce, who taught me how to listen to the language of dogs, a gift that has opened my world to so many incredible working dogs; and my cat, Zucca, who introduced me to Zen and taught me that it’s what’s inside that counts.”

By recognizing animal welfare-related achievements through its Animal Welfare and Human Animal Bond awards, the AVMA hopes to raise awareness of the important roles people play in improving understanding of animal welfare-related issues. For more information on the AVMA’s Veterinary Excellence Awards program, visit

About the American Veterinary Medical Association

The AVMA, founded in 1863, is one of the oldest and largest veterinary medical organizations in the world, with over 91,000 member veterinarians worldwide engaged in a wide variety of professional activities and dedicated to the art and science of veterinary medicine.

About Merck Animal Health

For more than a century, Merck, a leading global biopharmaceutical company, has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases. Merck Animal Health, known as MSD Animal Health outside the United States and Canada, is the global animal health business unit of Merck. Through its commitment to the Science of Healthier Animals™, Merck Animal Health offers veterinarians, farmers, pet owners and governments one of the widest range of veterinary pharmaceuticals, vaccines and health management solutions and services. Merck Animal Health is dedicated to preserving and improving the health, wellbeing and performance of animals. It invests extensively in dynamic and comprehensive R&D resources and a modern, global supply chain. Merck Animal Health is present in more than 50 countries, while its products are available in some 150 markets. For more information, visit or connect with us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter at @MerckAH.