Dr. John Otto opened the University Animal hospital in Norman in 1995. He has a wife, Patti and two sons and is active in shelter and community service work.
Otto grew up the son of an FBI director and recognized the emotional strain put on kids by having a parent incarcerated from an early age. He saw families torn apart and suffering, which led him to other philanthropic efforts through the Oklahoma Department of Corrections.
The veterinarian also helped establish the Guardian Angels program at Mabel Basset and also volunteers with the Friends for Folks program at the LARC. The programs allow offenders serving time at the facilities to train dogs considered unacceptable to prepare them for a home.
Oklahoma’s first Friends for Folks inmate dog training program began in 1990 at the men’s prison in Lexington. Its success, documented in the film “The Dogs of Lexington,” convinced the Department of Corrections to open a second program in January 2014 at Mabel Bassett women’s prison in McLoud, OK. A second film, “Bassett Tales,” premiered on OETA on July 30, 2015.
The Mabel Bassett program, established in 2014, is conducted in hallways, cells and the prison yard, conditions that have greatly challenged the program’s success. Friends for Folks’ ultimate goal is to expand its program into every correctional center in Oklahoma and success at Mabel Bassett is absolutely critical to achieving this goal.
About Sarge: The Veteran’s Best Friend
Veterans put their trust and confidence in other veterans. That’s a well known axiom. Veterans frequently need unconditional love and support of those who may not have worn their nation’s uniform. Dr. John Otto has given his expertise and devotion to helping man’s best friend give that unconditional love to so many. Sarge is a real canine who really does support the veteran’s at a real veterans center in Oklahoma. The healing properties and the psychological health that this wonderful dog brings to veterans have been replicated over and over with Dr. Otto’s love and veterinarian knowledge shared so freely. But more than knowledge and love, action makes this story come alive. It is true love of human and animal that changes the hearts and minds of those who have given so much to our nation. I enjoyed this story and so will every person who touches it. Share it with someone you love. —General Rita Aragon, Oklahoma Secretary of Veterans Affairs