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The Essential Guide to Caging for Working Dogs: Ensuring Safety and Security


Working dogs play a vital role in various security fields, including military operations, law enforcement patrol and detection canines, penal system security, and airport security (TSA).  For example, it is estimated that there are about 2,500 war and military service dogs in service, with about 700 serving at any given time overseas. These highly trained canines are often required to operate in challenging environments where safety and security are paramount. One crucial aspect of their care and management is providing appropriate caging solutions that offer comfort, protection, and functionality. In this guide, we will explore the importance of caging for these working dogs and provide valuable insights for professionals in these fields.

Photo: Cornell University

Understanding the Importance of Caging

Caging serves as a secure and comfortable space for working dogs when they are not actively engaged in their duties. It provides a designated area where they can rest, recuperate, and recharge between missions or shifts. Additionally, caging helps ensure the safety of the dogs, handlers, and others in their vicinity by preventing unauthorized access and containing the animals when necessary. Caging is also used to isolate a dog when wounded or sick. These types of working dogs can be unpredictable and potentially dangerous animals, when ill, injured, or stressed, and especially when not under the control of their assigned handler. Adequate caging and kennels provide security for the dog and the staff tending to them. This video gives a glimpse into the kind of care and training Department of Defense working dogs undergo.

Key Considerations for Choosing Caging and Kennels

In 2023 the U.S. Air Force issued a guidance policy for military working Dogs (MWD), which is being used as a best practice manual in many working dog facilities. While the guidelines allow for a wide degree of flexibility, the following factors are key in any working dog program.

  1. Size and Space: Cages should be spacious enough to allow the dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. The size of the kennel will vary depending on the breed and size of the dog, so it is essential to select an appropriate size to prevent confinement-related stress or discomfort. Our custom dog kennels can be made for any size dog including large working breeds like German shepherds, Belgian Malinois, Akitas, Alaskan Malamutes, Boxers, Bull Mastiffs, and Pinschers. We also have rolling dog cages that make it easy to roll dogs from room to room or for transportation in vehicles.


  1. Durability and Security: Working dogs are strong and energetic, so the cage must be durable enough to withstand their activity. Hinges and latches must be high quality and stand up to heavy use. We build our cages and kennels with 304 stainless-steel materials and offer optional 316 stainless-steel for extra corrosion resistance in salty environments. We also use heavy-duty HDP panels for privacy barriers. All of our cages and kennels have secure latching doors that can be locked to prevent escape or tampering. We also build custom canine enclosures for permanent installations. We can provide dog transport cages that keep canines safe when traveling.


  1. Ventilation and Temperature Control: Proper ventilation is crucial to ensure adequate airflow and prevent overheating, especially in warmer climates or during extended periods of confinement. Choose cages with ventilation panels or mesh sides to promote air circulation. Otto Environmental manufactures a wide variety of canine cages and kennels. All provide easy access for the dogs and plenty of ventilation. Consider environmental factors such as temperature and humidity when selecting caging solutions. We recommend 316 stainless-steel for kennels and cages used in damp or salty environments.


Best Practices for Canine Caging Management

  1. Regular Inspections: Inspect cages regularly for signs of wear and damage, such as bent bars or broken locks. Promptly repair or replace any damaged components to maintain the integrity of the cage and ensure the safety of the dog. Otto cage lubricant keeps hinges and locks working smoothly. There is trend to replace aging kennels and cages altogether rather than try to repair enclosures past their useful life.


  1. Cleanliness and Hygiene: Keep cages clean and sanitized to prevent the spread of germs and minimize the risk of disease transmission. Regularly remove waste, debris, and soiled bedding, and disinfect the cage surfaces as needed. The ASPCA offers some disinfection guidelines. The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) also provides a best practices guide.


  1. Comfort and Enrichment: Enhance the comfort of the cage by providing soft bedding or mats for the dog to rest on. Military working dogs and police dogs will appreciate and benefit from enrichment items such as chew toys or puzzle feeders . Environmental enrichment keeps the dog mentally stimulated and calm during confinement and down times.


Caging and kennels play a crucial role in the care and management of working dogs, ensuring their safety, security, and well-being. By choosing appropriate caging solutions and implementing best practices for caging management, professionals in fields such as military operations, law enforcement, and airport security can provide their canine partners with a comfortable and secure environment both on and off duty. Otto Environmental dog cages and kennels provide the optimal conditions for heroic working dogs and make it easy to achieve best practices like the Air Force Corporate Facilities Standards- Military Working Dog Kennel guidelines. Please contact us for any caging or kennel needs. We can assist with new kennel projects or when retrofitting an older working dog facility.

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Enrichment Practices for Farm Animals in Petting Zoos and Animal Rescues

Until recently most farm animal welfare research focused on maximizing growth and disease prevention through diet management and grow-out production systems.

In commercial farming animals are kept in high-density herds to reduce costs and bring “protein” to the market. But what about welfare for livestock, like cows, pigs, chickens, and other farm animals living at a petting farm or rescue facility? One of the most effective methods of enhancing the lives of these animals is through environmental enrichment.

Enrichment is not just for zoo animals

While often associated with exotic zoo species or household pets, the concept of environmental enrichment holds immense promise for enhancing the well-being of farm animals in settings such as petting farms and large animal rescues. For professionals already versed in the basics of enrichment, the journey toward optimizing farm animal welfare through thoughtful enrichment presents many exciting opportunities.

A wide range of animals from small goats and sheep to majestic horses and calm cows form the heart of petting farms and large animal rescues. These sanctuaries serve as havens for animals that have endured neglect, abuse, or simply find themselves in need of a new home. While these settings offer refuge, the principles of environmental enrichment can further elevate the lives of these animals, promoting their physical, emotional, and cognitive well-being.

For animal professionals familiar with the fundamentals of enrichment, the integration of these principles into petting farms and large animal rescues requires a tailored approach that recognizes the unique needs and behaviors of farm species. Here are some key strategies to consider.

Habitat Awareness

Creating optimized habitats for each species will enhance their sense of security and well-being. Providing ample space for movement, access to shelter, and opportunities for grazing or rooting allows animals to engage in species-typical behaviors.

Structural Enrichment

Incorporating structures such as climbing platforms and elevated resting areas can encourage physical activity and exploratory behaviors. For example, installing elevated platforms for goats to climb or providing hanging toys for animals to manipulate can promote natural behaviors and alleviate boredom. The Porcichew is a hanging, flavored chew toy that keeps swine busy with positive behavior and reduces tail and ear biting in pigs. Scratching posts like the Animal Itchin’ Post appeal to many animals like cows, sheep, horses, and goats.

Elevated Resting Areas
green hanging zyro on white background
Hanging Toys
Itchin' Post
Animal Itchin’ Itching Post


Feeding Enrichment

Rethinking feeding practices to encourage foraging behaviors can provide both physical and mental stimulation for farm animals. Feeding puzzles like the Luna Ring allow you to stuff it with flavorful treats like peanut butter, providing an interesting and tasty puzzle for the animals to investigate. Slow-release feeders encourage animals to engage in natural feeding behaviors and exercise, promoting overall cognitive welfare. The Stubbs England Horsey Ball is a favorite with ponies, horses and other hoofstock. This rugged rollable toy slowly dispenses treats as it is rolled and nudged.

donkey with luna ring
Luna Ring
Slow Feeder
Slow Feeders
blue round horsey ball on white background
STUBBS Horsey Ball


Social activities

Recognizing the social nature of many farm animals, providing opportunities for social interaction is essential. Group housing systems that allow for socialization, along with regular rotation of herd mates to prevent social stagnation, can support positive social dynamics. Chickens, for example, tend to peck at each other. Enrichment studies indicate that using products like our stainless-steel Bead Chain or hanging strings of wooden beads reduced this negative behavior. Community feeding devices also encourage a feeling of safety and comfort.

Bead Chain
Wood Beads
Hayball Feeder


Seasonal Variation

Introducing seasonal changes in the environment, such as rotating pasture access or altering enrichment products, can provide novel experiences and prevent habituation, keeping animals engaged and curious.

Monitoring and Adaptation

Regularly assessing the effectiveness of enrichment strategies and making adjustments based on animal behavior and preferences is crucial. Flexibility and responsiveness to the evolving needs of the animals ensure that enrichment efforts remain effective over time.

Next steps

By implementing the principles of environmental enrichment and tailoring them to the unique characteristics of farm animals in petting farms and large animal rescues, animal professionals can make a significant impact on the welfare of the animals at these facilities. Through thoughtful environmental design and a commitment to meeting the cognitive, social, and physical needs of farm animals, we can create environments where animals thrive, enriching their lives and fostering a deeper connection between humans and the animals in our care.

The Otto Environmental Advantage

Otto Environmental is committed to animal welfare and enrichment. Our services range from engineering and fabricating custom animal enclosures to everyday enrichment products for all animal species from exotic zoo animals to farm stock to pets. We serve all animal care facilities including shelters, rescue, zoos, farms, research labs, veterinary schools, and government facilities. Please contact us to discus any size project or enrichment program needs.


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Enhancing Cattle Well-being: The Importance of Environmental Enrichment

In the field of animal husbandry, ensuring the welfare of livestock is paramount for mental and physical health.

Cattle, in particular, thrive when provided with an enriched environment that caters to their behavioral and physiological needs. Studies indicate environmental enrichment plays a key role in reducing stress in cattle, resulting in a range of benefits such as reduced stereotypic behavior such as foot stomping, tongue rolling, and licking pen mates.

Understanding Livestock Environmental Enrichment

Environmental enrichment refers to the provision of stimuli or modifications to an animal’s surroundings that promote natural behaviors, cognitive engagement, and overall welfare. For cattle, this can encompass various elements such as physical structures, social interactions, sensory stimuli, and opportunities for exercise and exploration.

Space and Housing

Providing adequate space is crucial for cattle to express their natural behaviors and minimize stress. Providing spacious and well-designed housing facilities allows for comfortable movement, resting, and social interactions. It some countries dairy cows are housed indoors with no access to pasture. This makes it especially important to provide enrichment as it reduces stress and improves animal health in this intensive farming practice. Research indicates that loud metal on metal banging and equipment noise should me minimized, especially inside the barn or enclosure. The use of calming music has been suggested as a stress-reducer for indoor areas. Additionally, access to outdoor areas or indoor grazing enables cattle to satisfy the desire for grazing behavior, which is important for their physical and mental health.

Nutrition and Foraging

Incorporating foraging opportunities into cattle management practices stimulates natural feeding behaviors and prevents boredom. Lack of forage activity has been linked to stereotypic behavior. Implementing rotational grazing systems, offering feed in a scattered or suspended manner, and using enrichment devices like slow-feeders encourage cattle to engage in prolonged feeding activities, promoting gastrointestinal health and overall well-being.

Social Interaction

Cattle are inherently social animals, and facilitating positive social interactions within herds is vital for their welfare. Group housing systems that allow for the formation of stable social hierarchies and minimize aggression promote a harmonious social environment. Introducing new herd members gradually and providing adequate space for individual rest and retreat further support social well-being.


Environmental Stimuli

Enriching the cattle environment with sensory stimuli can enhance cognitive function and alleviate stress. Explorative and play behavior is associated with good health and wellbeing. Providing objects for manipulation, such as hanging ropes or scratching posts, offers tactile stimulation and helps satisfy the natural instinct to groom. One study with beef cattle found that the animals really liked interacting with a hanging rope and scratch product. Additionally, incorporating natural elements like trees or shelter belts provides shade, shelter, and visual interest, enriching the cattle’s surroundings. There is evidence that enrichment stimulates neural pathway development in the animal brain, leading to increased contentment. Increased wellbeing appears to maximize growth, milk production and other economic benefits such as reduced diseases.

Behavioral Diversity

Encouraging behavioral diversity is key to promoting mental stimulation and preventing stereotypic behaviors in cattle. Offering a variety of enrichment opportunities, such as novel objects, puzzle feeders, or rotational pasture access, encourages exploratory behavior and cognitive engagement. Regularly rotating enrichment items maintains novelty and sustains interest over time.


Monitoring and Adaptation of EE

Continuous monitoring of cattle behavior and environmental conditions is essential for evaluating the effectiveness of enrichment strategies. Observing changes in behavior patterns, social dynamics, and overall well-being enables proactive adjustments to enrichment protocols. Flexibility and responsiveness to individual and herd needs ensure that enrichment efforts remain relevant and impactful. Animals can have a preference for environmental enrichment items, so it is important to note what items are effective. We recommend periodically swapping out enrichment products to prevent boredom.



Environmental enrichment plays a pivotal role in promoting the well-being of cattle in agricultural settings. By addressing their natural behavioral and physiological needs, enrichment initiatives contribute to healthier, happier cattle and more sustainable livestock production systems. Embracing evidence-based practices and prioritizing the implementation of enrichment strategies underscore a commitment to animal welfare and responsible stewardship within the agricultural community.

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Harnessing Light for Equine Wellness: The Science of LED Therapy Lights

In the field of equine care and rehabilitation, advancements in technology have brought forth innovative solutions for promoting the health and well-being of our beloved horses.

Among these breakthroughs, LED therapy lights have emerged as a powerful tool, utilizing the principles of photobiomodulation (PBM) to address a myriad of conditions and enhance overall equine wellness. In this blog, we explain the science behind LED therapy lights for horses, shedding light on how this technology works and its applications in veterinary and animal care settings.

Understanding Photobiomodulation

You may ask “Is this technology real?” PBM devices have been cleared by FDA through the Premarket Notification/510(k), based on clinical studies.  At the heart of LED therapy for horses lies the concept of photobiomodulation, a process also known as low-level light therapy (LLLT) or red light therapy. It uses non-ionizing forms of light sources including Lasers and LEDs in the visible and near infrared spectrum. LED treatment units are popular due to safety and ease of use. Photobiomodulation involves the application of specific wavelengths of light to biological tissues, triggering cellular responses that promote healing and tissue repair. In the case of LED therapy lights for horses, the wavelengths typically utilized fall within the red and near-infrared (NIR) spectrum, ranging from 600 to 1000 nanometers. It will not work to simply use red LEDs. Our Equine Solarium and Equine Light Therapy Pads use red, infrared, blue, and UV LEDs to create the proper light spectrum.


Equine Solarium
Equine LED Light Therapy Pads


Cellular Mechanisms at Play

The magic of PBM LED therapy lights unfolds at the cellular level, where light photons are absorbed by mitochondria, the energy powerhouses of the cell. This absorption sets off a cascade of biochemical reactions, including the release of nitric oxide and the activation of signaling pathways. One of the key outcomes of these reactions is the increased production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the cellular energy currency essential for driving various metabolic processes.

Promoting Healing and Recovery

With increased ATP production and enhanced cellular metabolism, our equine LED therapy lights facilitate accelerated healing and tissue regeneration in horses. This proves invaluable in the management of musculoskeletal injuries such as tendonitis, ligament strains, and muscle soreness. By reducing inflammation and promoting blood circulation, LED therapy aids in the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to damaged tissues, while expediting the removal of metabolic waste products.

Addressing Dermatological Concerns

Beyond musculoskeletal ailments, LED therapy lights also offer effective solutions for various dermatological conditions affecting horses. From wounds and cuts to dermatitis and skin infections, the anti-inflammatory and tissue-healing properties of LED therapy contribute to the restoration of skin health and integrity. By stimulating cellular repair mechanisms, these lights facilitate faster wound closure and minimize the risk of complications such as infection.


Enhancing Performance and Well-Being

In addition to therapeutic applications, LED therapy lights play a crucial role in optimizing equine performance and overall well-being. Pre-performance conditioning sessions utilizing LED therapy can help prime horses for peak performance by reducing muscle fatigue and enhancing recovery. Similarly, post-performance sessions aid in the swift recovery of tired muscles, ensuring that horses remain in top form for their next endeavor.

Safety and Non-Invasiveness

One of the standout features of LED therapy lights is their safety and non-invasiveness, making them an attractive option for veterinary and animal care professionals. Unlike some conventional treatment modalities that may pose risks or require sedation, LED therapy is gentle and well-tolerated by horses. Whether applied locally to target specific areas or administered as a whole-body treatment, LED therapy offers a risk-free approach to equine wellness.



Our Equine LED therapy lights represent a safe and effective tool in the realm of equine care and rehabilitation. By harnessing the therapeutic potential of light, our Equine LED light therapy devices empower veterinary and animal care professionals to address a wide range of conditions and promote the health and well-being of their equine patients. With a solid understanding of the science behind LED therapy, coupled with its proven efficacy and safety, we can ensure a brighter future for our beloved horses.

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Optimizing Animal Enrichment with Species-Specific Products

Animal enrichment has become a cornerstone of responsible zoo and laboratory animal care.

It goes beyond simply offering distractions; enrichment aims to stimulate natural behaviors, encourage exploration, and provide cognitive challenges. However, the one-size-fits-all approach to enrichment is demonstrably inadequate.  We’ll explore the importance of selecting species-specific enrichment products and how that optimizes animal well-being and better outcomes in research.

Understanding Species-Specific Animal Needs

Animals have unique instincts, physical capabilities, and cognitive abilities. A foraging enrichment puzzle, like our Primate Enrichment System Biscuit Feeder, designed for a highly intelligent chimpanzee will likely leave a gerbil bewildered. Conversely, a simple food-dispensing ball perfect for small animals will pose no challenge to a curious elephant. Species-specific enrichment products cater to these unique needs.  Consider the following:

Biscuit Feeder
Food-Dispensing Ball


Satisfying Natural Behaviors

Foraging, climbing, object manipulation, social interaction – these are all behaviors that vary greatly across species.  Enrichment products should encourage these natural activities.  For instance, a climbing structure for monkeys or stuffing food in forage feeding devices for grazing animals like horses, replicates their natural foraging behaviors and provides variety to their daily routines.

Heavy Duty Hammock
Horseman’s Pride Jolly Hay Ball


Physical Capabilities

A giant inflatable Mega Ball might be a delightful enrichment for an elephant or horse but can be overwhelming for a small primate.  Similarly, a treat dispenser requiring fine motor skills wouldn’t be stimulating for an animal with limited dexterity.  Matching product size, weight, and complexity to the animal’s physical abilities is crucial.

Elephant on Jolly Mega Ball
Equine Jolly Mega Ball
Treat Dispenser


Cognitive Abilities

Species exhibit varying levels of problem-solving skills and curiosity.  Enrichment products should offer an appropriate level of challenge.  Interactive puzzles with varying difficulty levels can stimulate intelligent animals like primates, while simpler food-dispensing toys might be adequate for other species.

Puzzle Feeder
Mazee Puzzle Play


Benefits of Species-Specific Enrichment

By tailoring enrichment to specific needs, we can achieve a range of benefits:

Improved Physical and Mental Well-being

Species-specific enrichment encourages natural behaviors, providing physical and mental stimulation. This can lead to reduced stress levels, a decrease in stereotypical behaviors (pacing, rocking), and an overall improvement in animal welfare.

More Consistent Research Outcomes

Providing laboratory animals like mice and rats with enrichment toys leads to better quality results. The Calm Mouse Model suggest that when mice are under less stress through an enriched environment, research results are more reproduceable and  data is of better quality. Our birch chew blocks  and pine balls are popular rodent enrichment products in laboratory settings. They provide something to chew on and manipulate within the enclosure.

Birch Chew Blocks
Wooden Pine Balls 1"
Pine Balls

Increased Activity Levels

Engaging enrichment encourages movement and exploration, promoting overall physical well-being and reducing the risk of obesity and other health problems associated with inactivity.

Positive Behavioral Expression

Effective enrichment allows animals to express natural behaviors, leading to a more fulfilling captive experience.  Animal caregivers report less stereotypic behavior when their animals are provided with an enriching environment.

Tips For Selecting and Using the Right Products

The range of animal enrichment products is constantly evolving, offering a wide range of species-specific options. Here are some tips for selecting the right products.

Become Familiar with Enrichment Options

We are continuously developing new enrichment products. Our product pages suggest what kind of animals can benefit from the device. In many cases a wide variety of species find the product fun and engaging. But we also manufacture species-specific products, like our Primate Enrichment System. Browse the website for ideas!

spinners pes system
Spinners – Primate Enrichment System


Monitor Effectiveness

Observe how animals interact with the enrichment products. Are they engaged? Are they successfully manipulating the puzzles or utilizing the features? Rotate and adjust enrichment based on your observations.


Variety is Key

Change enrichment items regularly to maintain novelty and prevent animals from becoming habituated. This keeps them engaged and continues to provide mental and physical stimulation.



Moving beyond generic home-made enrichment tools, species-specific products offer a targeted approach to animal well-being. By catering to the unique needs of each species, we can provide enrichment that is not only stimulating but also promotes natural behaviors, improves cognitive function, and enhances overall animal welfare. Through careful selection and ongoing monitoring, zoo and lab professionals can leverage the power of species-specific enrichment to create a more fulfilling and enriching captive environment for the animals in their care.

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Unleashing a World of Benefits: Implementing Environmental Enrichment for Dogs

Environmental enrichment for dogs (Canis familiaris) has many positive benefits regardless if the “environment” is a rescue, home, or laboratory.

Recent research has confirmed what many of us have observed with dogs in our care. Dogs are happier, healthier, and calmer when provided with proper enrichment. Even kennel operators can offer enrichment as this Purdue University enrichment guide explains. The following is a summary of the latest thinking on effective canine enrichment practices.

A word about the importance of environmental enrichment

As animal professionals, we recognize the importance of catering to the physical and psychological needs of the canines under our care. While ensuring proper nutrition, sanitation, and veterinary care forms the foundation of good animal welfare, environmental enrichment offers an additional dimension by promoting optimal physical and mental well-being. This translates into better behavior, health and even experimental outcomes.

A 2022 pilot study set out to see the impact of seven types of enrichment activities on the behavior of ten assistance dogs undergoing training. Enrichment included conspecific play, time in a dog “playhouse”, and enrichment toys. The study evaluated dog behavior pre and post enrichment. The eight-week study indicated that stress behavior was significantly reduced when dogs interacted with handlers with tug of war toys.

Jolly Pets Tree Tugger


Another study research project studied the effect of feeding puzzle enrichment on kenneled dogs. Besides less stereotypic behavior, fur samples taken before and after enrichment indicated stress hormones reduction after using feeding puzzles like the Lickin’ Layers device.

Lickin’ Layers Dog Puzzle Brain


Enrichment benefits dogs kept under laboratory conditions. A 2008 study evaluated the response of dogs with and without the opportunity to interact with Kong extreme rubber toys stuffed with treats. The researchers found that playing with the Kong toy reduced barking episodes, improved appetitive behavior, and provided exercise opportunities for the caged dogs.

kong goodie ribbon with dog
Kong Goodie Ribbon


Practical benefits to canine environmental enrichment

Perhaps you do not want to sift through complex behavior studies and just want to know more about the positive effects of adding enrichment products to your dog’s world. We understand! Here are the real-world benefits of canine environmental enrichment!

 Boredom busters

Enrichment goes beyond mere entertainment. It is a strategic approach designed to stimulate their senses, encourage natural behaviors, and provide them with meaningful challenges. Bored dogs are anxious and generally unhappy. High-quality enrichment devices alleviate this type of stress.

Enhanced well-being

Enrichment reduces stress in dogs, leading to an improved emotional state, reduced anxiety and frustration, and a reduction in stereotypic behaviors like barking, chewing, and digging. This translates to a calmer environment for both dogs and handlers.

Cognitive stimulation

Enrichment toys like… cater to a dog’s natural curiosity by providing cognitive challenges. Food puzzles, scent work, and interactive toys engage their problem-solving skills, promoting mental health.

Kong Biscuit Ball


Stronger human-animal bond

Implementing and engaging in enrichment activities with dogs allows for positive interaction and bonding with humans. Games of fetch, tug of war, and even walks foster a deeper connection between caregiver and canine.

Fido Super Tugger


One size does not fit all dogs

The beauty of canine enrichment lies in its adaptability. Activities and toys can be customized to cater to individual needs, age, and physical capabilities. For energetic breeds, interactive games and outdoor exploration might be ideal, while for timid dogs, puzzle feeders and scent work can build confidence. We can even provide a treadmill for your pup.

Mazee Puzzle Play


Canine Treadmill


Safety first!

Ensure all enrichment products are safe and appropriate for the individual dog. Inexpensive toys are often poorly made and use potentially harmful materials. All of our enrichment products are manufactured of the highest quality materials and safe when used as intended.

Summing up canine enrichment

By actively participating canine environmental enrichment, we can go beyond providing basic care and truly enhance the lives of the dogs in our care. It does not matter if your canines are working dogs (military, hunting, law enforcement), personal assistants, companions, or even aiding in medical science, they will benefit from enrichment activities and products.


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Enhancing Elephant Well-being: The Importance of Environmental Enrichment

Among the many species in our care, elephants stand as majestic ambassadors of the wild, commanding both respect and admiration.

However, meeting the complex needs of these intelligent giants requires more than just providing for their basic physiological requirements. In this blog, we’ll explore the latest philosophy of environmental enrichment for elephants.

Understanding the Need for Environmental Enrichment

Elephants, known for their remarkable intelligence and social complexity, thrive in environments that offer mental stimulation and physical engagement. In the wild, they roam vast territories, foraging, socializing, and engaging in a range of natural behaviors essential for their well-being. However, captivity often restricts these opportunities, necessitating proactive measures to replicate natural conditions within the confines of the zoo environment.

Caring for African elephants (Loxodonta africana) and Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) in captivity encompasses various activities such as feeding, exercising, and training. These are essential to fulfill the elephants’ nutritional, healthcare, and husbandry requirements. In fact, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums require an exercise program, behavior training, and a variety of husbandry activities including baths, foot, and skin care assessment.

Staff-guided exercise is critical for elephants

Elephants can be conditioned to engage in staff-directed exercise routines such as stretching and keeper-directed walks. Exercise programs are recommended to reduce the chances of the animals developing pododermatitis and degenerative bone disease.

Food enrichment

Elephants enjoy foraging for food. They are adept at manipulating plant material to obtain the desired vegetation such as grasses, forbs, fruits, bark, leaves, twigs, and roots. A recent research project conducted at the Woodland Park Zoo, studied the effects of foraging and public feeding of zoo elephants on reducing stereotypic behavior. The consensus among zoo professionals is to strike a balance between self-guided foraging and public feedings. To satisfy natural foraging instincts we recommend the heavy-duty Elephant Food Tube. Mount the tube where elephants can reach it. Load the tube with fruit, pumpkin, and other vegetable foods.

Elephant Food Tube


Blending sensory and food enrichment

Another way to change the elephant’s routine is to provide interesting scents and textures in the form of hay, grasses, and other elephant-safe plant materials. The hanging Hayball Enrichment Feeder can be stuffed with forage material and even moved around the elephant’s habitat to facilitate an interesting forage challenge. The Food Tube is a favorite among elephants and calves. Just hang it with our Bungie.

Hayball Enrichment Feeder


Habitat Complexity

Zoos design elephant enclosures that mimic their natural habitat. Elephants like diverse terrain with varied textures, slopes, and resting spots. Making periodic substantial changes to the habitat is not feasible. But you can add complexity and interesting adventures through elephant-friendly enrichment products. The Elephant Bungee is designed specifically for the curious elephant. It is designed to be mounted at heights that can be reached only by the trunk, and not the mouth. Three varieties are available. Our exclusive Elephant Drum is tough enough to be kicked, rolled, and tossed.

Elephant Bungee
Elephant Drum


Interactive Enrichment Toys

Time with a keeper can be fun and important bonding experience. Our Monster Ball is a favorite with elephants and keepers. The tough plastic ball has a weighted interior that makes the ball wobble. The Kore Roller weighs 50 pounds and can be picked up and rolled by elephants. If you need a large, heavy toy, consider the Titan! Weighing in at 120 lbs., the heavy-duty plastic Titan is made for rough play. The capsule shape makes it roll and wobble. This is a favorite of large elephants and provides plenty of exercise as they roll and toss the Titan.

OE Monster Ball
KORE Roller


Key take-aways

Elephant Aid International recommends  varied stimuli to keep elephants engaged and to avoid stereotypic behavior. As stewards of these magnificent creatures, we have a profound responsibility to ensure their welfare and fully enrich their lives. Environmental enrichment stands as a cornerstone to meeting the complex needs of elephants under our care. By using innovative enrichment strategies, fostering social bonds, and promoting physical and mental stimulation, we can create environments where elephants thrive, inspiring awe and appreciation in all who encounter them. At Otto Environmental we strive to deepen our connection to these extraordinary animals through effective enrichment products that improve their environment and quality of life.


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Spreading the Love: Engaging Valentine’s Day Events at Zoos and Animal Shelters

Valentine’s Day is coming soon!

It is a day often associated with chocolates, roses, and romantic dinners. But for zoo and animal shelter staff, it’s an opportunity to spread love in a different way: by celebrating the amazing animals in our care and fostering connections between them and the community.

While zoos and shelters may not be the first places that come to mind for Valentine’s Day festivities, they offer unique potential for heartwarming and educational events. Here are some ideas you can use at your facility.

Animal Enrichment with a Twist

Rosamond Gifford Zoo will host its annual Sweet Treats event, in which animal care staff will present heart-shaped and Valentine’s Day-themed enrichment items to the animals of the zoo! Ted Fox, executive director of the zoo said “Sweet Treats gives our guests a greater understanding of animal enrichment, and the event always makes for an entertaining and educating day.”

Wild At Heart

The Denver Zoo’s Valentine’s celebration Wild At Heart, spans a four-course dinner for adults to reduced pricing for special safaris highlighting the animals.

Mating and Dating

Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo is celebrating Valentine’s Day with their Mating and Dating event. This educational evening is for ages 21 and up due to the humorous, racy theme and cocktails will be available.

Animals Love Enrichment Toys

You may not be hosting dinner and cocktails at your facility. But that does not mean you cannot celebrate Valentine’s Day. Just like people, animals love getting Valentine’s gifts. Birds will enjoy our hanging Play Heart with pacifiers and a bell. Birds can manipulate the colorful components and ring the bell. Great for zoos and animal shelters.

Show your love for rats, mice, and other rodents with our pine hearts. Rodents will hold and gnaw the all-natural heart shapes, satisfying the desire to chew and taste while building tooth strength.

Imported Wood Pine Hearts
Wooden Pine Hearts


Need a fun Valentine’s toy for dogs? The Ruff Dog Hart is a heart-shaped chew toy that can take rough play. The toy bounces and even floats in water! Great for any canine or animal that likes to chew.

Ruff Dawg Harts


Otto Environmental manufactures enrichment products for all animals including primates, elephants, horses, big cats, and birds.

Valentine Treats

Valentine’s day is also a time for treats. But candy and other “people treats” are not good for animals. That is why we stock a wide range of healthy and safe treats for just about any animal. Here are just a few of the fun treats you can give to your animals any day.

  • Popper Mint Horse Treats – for ponies, horses, and mules. Bite-size grain treats.
  • Ferret Extreme – freeze dried fish treats
  • Simple Rewards – All natural baked treats for rabbits, guinea pigs, chinchillas and other small Available in five flavors
  • Nectar Pods – exotic fruit flavors & added calcium make Nectar Pods the ideal treat for birds, fruit-eating mammals, and day geckos.
  • Monkey Biscuits – For New World & Old-World primates. This high-energy formula delivers constant nutrition, with stabilized vitamin C, vitamin D, and protein. Great for marmosets, monkeys, and other like primates.

Make Valentine’s Day Fun!

By incorporating these ideas and tailoring them to your specific zoo or animal facility, you can create a unique and engaging Valentine’s Day event that benefit both your animals and your community. Let’s turn this day of love into an opportunity to celebrate the incredible creatures in our care and the important work we do.

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Animals in the News January

Bristol Zoo Project Receives Green Light to Construct New Forest Habitat

Exciting news has emerged from the Bristol Zoo Project as plans to construct a new forest habitat have been approved, signaling a significant milestone for conservation efforts. The forthcoming habitat, set to house a diverse array of species including western lowland gorillas and slender-snouted crocodiles, marks a crucial step forward for the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS). With work slated to commence in the spring, the project is anticipated to unfold in phases over the coming years.

According to BZS, the attainment of planning approval represents a distinctive opportunity to bolster conservation initiatives. The expansive habitat will not only accommodate gorillas but also host cherry-crowned mangabeys, African grey parrots, and various species of West African freshwater fish.

A standout feature of the endeavor is the generous space allotted to the gorillas and mangabeys, encompassing an area four-and-a-half times larger than their previous enclosure at the former Bristol Zoo Gardens site in Clifton. Designed to emulate the dense forests and landscapes of Equatorial Guinea, the habitat promises to provide an enriching environment for its inhabitants.

Moreover, the Bristol Zoo Project’s habitat will incorporate dedicated learning spaces aimed at engaging students, visitors, and schoolchildren in the observation and documentation of animal behavior. Brian Zimmerman, the Director of Conservation and Science at BZS, expressed enthusiasm for the project, emphasizing its potential to expand the organization’s conservation endeavors. “It also enables us to participate in, and lead, managed breeding programs, which will help to protect them in the future,” Zimmerman added.

With its commitment to conservation and education, the Bristol Zoo Project’s new forest habitat stands as a testament to the ongoing efforts to safeguard endangered species and promote environmental awareness. As construction commences, anticipation mounts for the transformative impact this initiative will have on both wildlife preservation and public engagement with nature.

Zoos Gear Up for Winter Weather with Special Preparations for Animal Comfort

As the wintry weather descends, zoos and animal attractions are taking proactive measures to ensure the well-being of their inhabitants, implementing strategies ranging from heat lamps to warm treats. Concerns over icy conditions prompted West Midland Safari Park in Worcestershire to consider keeping animals like giraffes indoors for safety. Meanwhile, Telford’s Exotic Zoo acknowledges the heightened importance of visitor turnout during the winter months to offset increased energy costs. At Dudley Zoo, preparations include providing sleds in case staff need to navigate snowy conditions while moving animal feed. Manager Matt Lewis emphasizes the importance of maintaining warmth for the animals, highlighting the heated, insulated indoor dens. Moreover, special treats like sugar-free squash and warm cakes are offered to animals like orangutans and red pandas to provide additional warmth.

In extreme cold, additional heat lamps are deployed, particularly crucial for primates and lemurs susceptible to frostbite. Angela Potter, head of wildlife at West Midland Safari Park, underscores the importance of well-insulated and heated housing, especially for animals accustomed to warmer climates. While some species may need to stay indoors during wintry blasts, others, like the red panda, thrive in colder conditions and even enjoy playing in the snow. Our Iceberg Float is popular with polar bears and other animals that are active in winter.

Police Safely Rescue Camels and Zebras from Trailer Fire on Indiana Interstate

A remarkable scene unfolded on an Indiana interstate as police responded to a fiery incident involving camels, zebras, and even a miniature horse over the weekend. The unexpected spectacle occurred when the trailer transporting these animals caught fire, leaving the animals grazing on the side of the highway. Fortunately, law enforcement swiftly intervened to ensure the safety of the stranded creatures.

“Grateful to report that all animals involved have been rescued safely. No harm to our furry friends,” assured the sheriff’s office, marking a successful outcome amidst the chaotic situation.

Photo: Associated Press


Exploring Play Behavior in Diamondback Terrapins: Insights from Zoo Atlanta’s Research

Did you know turtles engage in play behavior? It seems that diamondback terrapins do! Dr. Joe Mendelson, Director of Research at Zoo Atlanta, notes that play behavior in animals, akin to its interpretation in humans, encompasses activities that are fun, whimsical, and sometimes appear purposeless.

Dr. Joe noticed something interesting in the zoo’s terrapin exhibit. A water pump is located in the corner of the habitat. These clever turtles discovered a fun activity: swimming beneath the water stream and emerging into the plume. The blast of water flips the turtles over and blasts them back into the exhibit. The turtles like this activity so much they keep coming back for another round. Dr Joe suggests this play behavior is just that, a fun activity. You can watch the turtles playing here. We manufacture a variety of fun environmental enrichment products for just about any animal you have at your facility. From mice to elephant toys, we have it all!

Observing such behaviors sheds light on the cognitive and emotional lives of these reptiles, offering valuable insights into their social interactions and environmental engagement. Through ongoing research efforts at Zoo Atlanta, scientists aim to unravel the intricacies of play behavior in diamondback terrapins, further deepening our understanding of animal cognition and welfare.


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The Importance of Partnering With a Reliable Lab Supplier

For centuries, lab animals have been instrumental in advancing medical understanding, particularly for diseases affecting humans and wildlife.

For example, rats, used in research since the mid-1800s, held the title of “top research animal” for nearly 200 years. An interesting video on the history of lab rats can be seen here. Only recently have mice dethroned them in terms of sheer numbers used in studies. The types of animals used to veterinary and life science studies continue to grow. Here are a just a few of the animals involved in modern laboratory work.

  • Guinea pigs
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Non-Human Primates
  • Hamsters
  • Pigs
  • Rabbits
  • Birds
  • Cats
  • Dogs
  • Sheep
  • Other hoofstock

Changes in laboratory animal care

While early lab animal supplies focused solely on research tools, a shift occurred in 1985. The U.S. Animal Welfare Act amendments recognized the importance of animal well-being, mandating larger enclosures and environmental enrichment toys. Similar guidelines and regulations have also been implemented in the United Kingdom. These changes continue to evolve based on data that indicate better housing and care results in more reliable research data and test outcomes. Furthermore, the development of better equipment, ranging from squeeze cages to mechanical lifts ensure the safety of staff and the test subjects.

Squeeze Cage

Meeting animal research guidelines

Animal research plays a crucial role in many scientific breakthroughs and demands careful consideration of ethical and practical factors. Choosing the right equipment for your research is vital to both data quality and animal welfare. Your institutional IACUC serves as the guardian of responsible research within your organization. They meticulously review protocols and procedures to ensure adherence to the Animal Welfare Act, PHS Policy, and other relevant guidelines. Therefore, every tool you use – from cages and syringes to surgical instruments – must meet high ethical standards.

 Key considerations when selecting animal research equipment

  • Species-specific needs: Tailor your equipment to the unique physical and behavioral characteristics of your research subjects. A guinea pig enclosure won’t work for a marmoset, and vice versa.
  • Procedure compatibility: Choose tools that facilitate easy access for injections, sample collection, or other necessary procedures. Consider sterilization requirements to prevent contamination.
  • Durability and ease of use: Opt for sturdy, well-made tools that can withstand frequent cleaning and disinfection. User-friendly equipment minimizes stress for both you and the animals.
  • Enrichment opportunities: Remember, animal well-being extends beyond cages and syringes. Consider incorporating toys, hiding places, or even species-specific scents to keep your subjects stimulated and engaged.

By carefully selecting your animal research supplies and equipment, you can contribute to both high-quality data and a commitment to ethical research practices. The animals entrusted to your care deserve respect and compassion.

Otto Environmental is the go-to supplier for university, regulatory, and life-science research laboratories around the world. The company is dedicated to providing the equipment and supplies you need to conduct your important research. Here are just a few categories of laboratory supplies we can provide.

The Otto Environmental advantage

We guarantee you will receive the best customer service and highest quality equipment and supplies at competitive prices. Otto Environmental is a US-based manufacturer and distributor of life-science and veterinary products ranging from laboratory cabinets and sinks to neuroscience equipment. We also manufacture high-quality animal enclosures and transport equipment that will hold up to the rigors of research and stringent experimental protocols.

Our knowledgeable customer service representatives are available to discuss your laboratory’s needs including custom caging and other equipment needed to successfully complete your research projects. Our easy online ordering process ensures that you receive the supplies and equipment you need in a timely manner. Contact us any time for fast, competent service!