Meet the Team
Karen Atlas, PT, MPT, CCRT
Founder, Director of Animal Rehabilitation
Karen is an experienced and licensed human Physical Therapist having graduated with a Masters degree from UC San Francisco/San Francisco State University in 1996. After adopting an injured dog named Teddy, she soon became passionate about applying her therapy skills and knowledge to the canine population. She is a Certified Canine Rehabilitation Therapist (CCRT) and successfully completed the program offered through the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI). (www.caninerehabinstitute.com) She was the first certified canine rehab specialist practicing in her hometown of Santa Barbara. For eight years, she served as the Director of Rehabilitation at Hydropaws Animal Rehabilitation and Performance Center. Karen's passion for animals, knowledge, and helping her community then led her to open Atlas Rehabilitation for Canines, Santa Barbara's only stand-alone animal rehabilitation facility led by certified professionals.
Karen is a clinical instructor/mentor for the Canine Rehabilitation Institute (CRI). She has also been an invited guest lecturer for Western University School of Veterinary Medicine.
As a fierce advocate for the consumers and their pets in California, she has been intimately involved in the regulation of Animal Rehabilitation and served on the California Veterinary Medical Board's Animal Rehabilitation Task Force. She maintains her steadfast desire to allow for consumer choice of and increased access to qualified non-veterinary professionals (i.e. advanced trained, licensed and certified physical therapists) and is the President of the California Association of Animal Physical Therapists (www.caapt.org).
William J. Otto, DVM
Dr. Otto grew up on a small farm in Ohio. He was always surrounded by animals and decided that he was going to be a veterinarian at the age of 10. He attended Ohio State University, where he received his Bachelor of Science in Animal Science and then his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine. Ultimately, Dr. Otto made his way out to the Santa Barbara area, where he has been for over 30 years.
Dr. Otto is the former owner of Carpinteria Veterinary Hospital in Carpinteria. He was forced to retire from general practice after suffering a traumatic spinal fracture. Dr. Otto has since recovered and was ready to practice again when Karen began envisioning ARC. He joined the team as the managing veterinarian and his knowledge and compassion make him an incredible asset to the ARC team.
Dr. Otto now lives in the Santa Ynez valley with his partner, 5 cows, and 35 hens. He loves gardening, landscape design, and horseback riding. Dr. Otto has been on a number of horseback riding trips throughout the world including Argentina, India, Kenya, South Africa, Botswana, Equador, Chile, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Italy, France, Portugal, and others.
Zach Wermers, PT, DPT, CCRT
Originally from South Dakota, Zach has been a licensed Physical Therapist for over seven years after graduating from Creighton University in Omaha Nebraska with his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2012. Zach met his wife, Lindsay, during their time in Omaha, and they worked as PTs along the east coast for several years prior to moving to Santa Barbara in 2015. Together they have a daughter, Cameron, and a rescue minpin/boston terrier named Marvella.
After working as a human PT for many years, Zach was inspired to become a certified canine PT by a former professor. Zach attended CRI (Canine Rehabilitation Institute) and then completed an internship with Karen Atlas at ARC. He found the canine rehabilitation process to be incredibly rewarding and was thrilled to accept a position as a physical therapist on the ARC team in mid-2018.
Dr. Hillary Conant, DVM
Dr. Hillary Conant grew up in Santa Cruz, California with pets and pastimes of an animal lover to the core. She attended UC Santa Barbara, where she double majored in Environmental Studies and Latin American Studies and spent a year abroad in Costa Rica, where she became proficient in Spanish. She graduated with high honors from UCSB in 1999. It was through her subsequent training with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and her work as an assistant in several veterinary hospitals that she became convinced to pursue a career as a veterinarian.
Dr. Conant attended Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and was the recipient of numerous awards and scholarships before graduating with honors and receiving her doctorate in 2007. She then completed a 12 month internship at the Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group (VMSG) in Ventura where she received advanced training in small animal medicine and surgery. For more than 10 years now, she has worked at San Roque Pet Hospital, as part of Santa Barbara Veterinary Group, developing bonds with her patients and their people, helping her clients understand their pets’ conditions so they can make informed decisions about their care. She has always taken a holistic view of her patients and since 2017, through her training with the International Veterinary Acupuncture Society (IVAS), she has been thrilled to be able to practice truly integrative medicine.
Dr. Conant, her husband, and their two young children, live with their rescue dogs, Alamar and Suzy, their quirky and loveable kitty, Boonie, and two guinea pigs, Jake and Bananas. She feels very fortunate to call Goleta and Santa Barbara home and is pleased to offer acupuncture through Santa Barbara Veterinary Integrative Services to the Goleta/Santa Barbara community.
Jeff Atlas, B.S. Business Administration
Co-Owner, Director of Operations
Jeff manages business and operations for ARC.
He honed his project management skills working in the entertainment industry producing television and live events. His first job was with Dick Clark Productions as a runner. (Run here, run there, etc.) He soon began to find his niche in variety television working as a production coordinator, and travel coordinator on shows such as: The American Music Awards, Soul Train Music Awards, U. S. Comedy Arts Festival and the Centennial Olympic Games in Atlanta.
Jeff founded Backhand Productions, Inc. in 2000. Immediately he was awarded the contract to produce 14 hours of live TV content for the Democratic National Committee in the fall of 2000. Backhand went on to produce a series of diverse, high quality productions for FOX, NBC, TNT, ABC, Nickelodeon, MTV and more. Notable projects include Kevin Hart’s theatrical success, “Laugh at My Pain,” the launch of the new YouTube Space LA, the National Urban League National Annual Conference, The Gracie Awards, producing for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and go90’s livestream of the Outside Lands Music Festival in San Francisco. His latest role was Executive Producer for the limited series “Blood Ivory” for Animal Planet which focuses on the non-profit group of American veterans (VETPAW) and their first mission to Tanzania to support the elephant anti-poaching effort. He is known for his ability to produce large and complex productions with a cool head.
Jeff earned a degree in Business Administration from California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. Jeff is a member of the Producers Guild of America, Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Southern California Minority Business Development Council, and resides in Santa Barbara with Karen and their two boys.
Jillian grew up in the mountains above San Diego County and always had a strong affinity for animals. At a young age, she began riding horses and worked on various ranches. In 2008, Jillian came to Santa Barbara to attend UCSB and majored in Zoology. Jillian graduated in 2012, and has yet to leave! Shortly after graduation, Jillian began working with Karen Atlas doing animal physical rehabilitation at another facility. Jillian quickly fell in love with the field of animal rehabilitation and strives to learn as much as she can to help our 4-legged friends live the best life possible. When Karen decided to open ARC, Jillian could not have been happier to have the opportunity to help at a new, state-of-the-art facility. In her spare time, Jillian loves to hike, spend time with family, and play with her silly Golden Retriever/Border Collie Mix, Packer.
Harley has spent her entire life around animals. She has always had a kind nourishing spirit and is often found bringing home all the stray pets she could find. Growing up, both of Harley's parents worked with horses and cattle dogs. She was riding horses before she could even walk! As soon as Harley was old enough to work, she started working with her mother managing a private ranch/petting zoo caring for many dogs and a variety of other animals. Harley first met Karen Atlas when one of the dogs from her job needed extensive physical rehabilitation. A couple of years later, a position opened up and Karen knew that Harley would be the perfect fit. Harley has now been working with Karen since 2014 and knows that this is the field for her. Harley feels her purpose in life is to make all pets happy pets, and she can truly fulfill that purpose at ARC.
Originally from the Central Valley, Gabriela grew up with animals her entire life. She first began working with large animals by raising lambs for her high school FFA project. She attended San Francisco State University on the presidential scholarship, and graduated summa cum laude with her Bachelor of Science in physiology and minor in chemistry. While in San Francisco, she volunteered at local animal shelters and gained veterinary care experience. Gabriela also had the opportunity to spend a year serving the Bay Area community through AmeriCorps, before moving to Santa Barbara. Gabriela loves seeing the positive difference rehab makes, and plans to continue on an educational path in animal wellness and science. Gabriela also has a soft spot for Great Danes, as her family has one named Tig!
Alexis grew up in Tustin, CA, but has resided in Santa Barbara for the past eight years. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communication from the University of California Santa Barbara. Alexis has always had a passion for helping dogs and this led her to become very involved with local Santa Barbara animal rescues. Currently, she has three rescue dogs, Penelope, Tasha, and Mao Mao. Alexis also frequently opens her home to foster dogs in need. Her passion for helping dogs ultimately led Alexis to find the field of animal rehabilitation. Alexis's greatest joy comes from helping dogs in need and now she is able to help dogs suffering from disabilities as well as those looking for their forever home!