Behavior & Welfare Specialist
Before joining the Precision Behavior team in 2017, Otto led a team of talented behaviorists at Busch Gardens Tampa, where he guided the 2004 transformation of the elephant program from its traditional roots to choice-, trust-, and relationship-based Positive Reinforcement Training. Outside of “Pachyderm Palace,” Otto also worked with the orangutan and gibbon teams.
Prior to BGT, Otto was a Senior Trainer and Research Coordinator at SeaWorld Orlando, where he worked with marine mammals beginning in 1987. When not training, performing or hugging several species – mostly killer whales -- he was also responsible for business and labor analyses. Additionally, Otto wrote several education shows and helped to develop multiple animal interaction programs.
Otto has always been heavily involved in research and animal welfare. He has written, spoken, and presented on topics including husbandry training, behavioral enrichment, desensitization, anthropomorphism, natural history, facility design, cognition and comparative psychology, safety, staff development, thermoregulation, elephant personality, positive reinforcement, and more in numerous venues including seven different college campuses. In addition to collaborating, conducting, and publishing research, Otto has been tapped to review manuscript submissions for two different peer-review journals.
While endeavoring to raise the professionalism and pride of those around him and to increase research output, Otto established or enhanced ties with institutions of higher learning, helping to develop programs for several graduate and hundreds of undergraduate students.
Otto has consulted on elephant behavior issues both in the US and overseas. He has served as an Advisor to the AZA Animal Welfare Committee and is also a member of the Florida Association for Behavior Analysis (FABA) and The Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA), for which he formerly served as a board member and chair of the Government Affairs Committee. He is also a past member of EMA, as well as the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA).
His BGT Elephant Team featured an extraordinary group of creative, positive, and passionate trainers, and frequently hosted visiting behaviorists, scientists, conservationists, animal welfare experts, and elephant handlers from across the world, but also management and organizational behavior consultants eager to study the positive, productive, and fun culture of the team.
In a second career, Otto has also been a sportswriter and entrepreneur with clients throughout NCAA Division I athletic conferences, plus sports media professionals, bowl committees, marketing consultants, and sports law specialists. His analyses have been featured in national magazines, dozens of newspapers, numerous online venues, and radio at the national, regional, and local levels.
Otto gratefully acknowledges that he has personally benefited from learning from some of the top animal behavior professionals in the world, and feels that the day that his learning stops is the day he’ll hang up his whistle. Strongly committed to the primacy of animal welfare, Otto enjoys working with smart, discerning animals, and passionate, professional people.
At Precision Behavior (PB), we have spent our careers living the positive reinforcement based principles that we teach while working with and learning from some of the world's most amazing animals. We have found that positive relationships yield profound results. Precision Behavior represents years of executive management, diverse experience in zoos and aquariums, profesional education programs for domestic and wild animals as well as leadership programs for executives.
We teach both basic and advanced animal training seminars and workshops to animal professionals, college students and aspiring trainers. We also specialize in positive behavior modification for school systems, parents and corporations. We have authored numerous publications/presentaitons and Thad is the co-author of three Whale Done books.
Angi Millwood Lacinak
Angi is a founder of Precision Behavior. She manages daily operations and project development of the Company focused on corporate leadership training and zoological consulting. In this role, Angi also writes, designs and instructs positive reinforcement based seminars and workshops directed at improving the lives of people and animals. In addition to her skills as an instructor, she has an extensive background in exotic animal training and theatrical show production. She currently consults at zoological and domestic animal facilities worldwide.
Previously, Angi held positions at several top-ranked animal facilities. She served as Manager of Marine Mammals at the Atlantis Resort, The Palm, in Dubai where she was responsible for the care and training of Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins as well as staff development. She was also the Director of Behavior Programs at Natural Encounters, Inc. (NEI), responsible for behavioral husbandry consulting in zoological facilities worldwide including training staff, training animals, and show development as well as coordinating all of NEI’s animal training workshops. Prior to work at NEI, Angi was the Animal Training Coordinator at the Fort Worth Zoo, responsible for the Zoo’s animal training programs for more than 350 animal species. She was also a member of the Disney’s Animal Kingdom opening team, working with a wide variety of species and assisting with the implementation of a variety of behavioral husbandry initiatives.
Angi is currently a professional member of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance (ABMA), where she served for years on the Board of Directors. She is also a professional member of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association (IMATA). Angi has conducted numerous workshops and papers nationally and internationally at conferences, for zoo staff, college students and business professionals. In 2005 she received the prestigious Animal Welfare Advancement Award from the ABMA.
She has served as a Course Instructor for the AZA professional courses: Animal Training Applications in Zoo and Aquarium Settings and Meeting Your Institutional Goals through Program Animals. She is a graduate of Jacksonville State University with a double major in Theater and English and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in anthrozoology at the University of Exeter in the U.K.
Thad is a founder of Precision Behavior. In this role, he manages project development and consulting and works to advance animal behavior modification techniques and trainer safety within the zoological community. Thad is also integral to the instructional products of the Company, teaching positive reinforcement based courses to both zoological and corporate clients. He currently consults at zoological and domestic animal facilities world-wide.
In 2008, Thad retired from a 35-year career at Busch Entertainment Corporation (BEC), as Vice President and Corporate Curator of Animal Training where he directed animal training and enrichment efforts at all U.S. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Theme Parks. Thad oversaw and coordinated the efforts of over 450 animal trainers and keepers at these parks. In short, he had the world’s largest animal training staff as well as the world’s largest collection of trained animals under his purview.
Lacinak was instrumental in developing Sea World’s and Busch Gardens’ industry-leading behavior and training techniques, husbandry procedures, and spectacular killer whale shows. Thad led the team that won the prestigious Thea Award from the Themed Entertainment Association in 2007 for the Believe killer whale show. In addition, he has won numerous awards for presentations and workshops at professional conferences.
Lacinak is a member of the International Marine Animal Trainers Association where he was Vice President in 1986 and he was co-founder and president of the Animal Behavior Management Alliance. He is frequently sought by the media for his expert opinion on a wide variety of animal-related issues and has been featured on CNN's Larry King Live, Fox News, and Good Morning America, among other shows.
Since the publication of the New York Time’s best-seller, Whale Done! in 2001, which sold over a million copies in eighteen languages, Thad continues to present keynote speeches, seminars and workshops globally to major corporations and US Government agencies explaining the Whale Done process, vastly improving working relationships. Whale Done Parenting was released in the Fall of 2009. Thad recently collaborated on a third book in the Whale Done series, The Whale Done School, which was released in the Spring of 2012.
“If we can train killer whales to pee in cups and lions to let us brush their teeth, imagine what's possible with empoyees, bosses, children and spouses! So what are you waiting for, email us for more information!"
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Thad & Angi Lacinak, Founders