About The ARK
The ARK at JFK is a 178,000 S.F. animal health and reception center and ground handling facility with direct airside access located in Cargo Area D at JFK International Airport. The ARK at JFK features several disciplines to service pets, horses, birds, livestock and exotic animals in a competent and compassionate manner: ARK Pet Oasis for companion animals, ARK Export Center, ARK Import and Quarantine, ARK Aviary, ARK approved veterinarian, a luxury pet resort and day care center as well as the entire ground handling and cargo operations for AirFrance/KLM/Martinique, Alitalia and Icelandair operated by Worldwide Freight Services ("WFS"). Quarantine operations.
About ARK Pet Oasis
The ARK Pet Oasis is a 4,000 S.F. animal reception center comprising 47 dog kennels, 12 cat kennels, 4 isolation kennels and secure cargo delivery area. The facility also features an enclosed outdoor relief area, grooming tub and drying table, laundry room, food prep/kitchenette and veterinary triage station. ARK-branded vans for safe and temperature controlled transport of pets. With direct airside access, ARK Pet Oasis is a Customs Bonded Warehouse and Container Freight Station ("CFS"); it is authorized to receive and handle animals that have not yet cleared customs due to late arrivals or customs holds directly from the carrier. Floors and walls are covered with bio-secure epoxy finish that enables thorough disinfection. The facility is serviced by a sophisticated HVAC system that provides 100% air exchange to 4 separate zones. The kennel areas are well-insulated to contain sound and reduce stress. Operations and bio-security protocols are overseen by The ARK at JFK's Chief Medical Officer in conjunction with Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine.
You will not find a more dedicated and professional group of animal caregivers and hospitality specialists. Our team members all consider their personal pets as part of their family and will provide the same consideration to your precious pet or working dog. Guests at ARK Pet Oasis receive lots of enrichment attention and frequent relief opportunities.
Not only does our staff love animals, they are highly qualified, well-trained and extensively vetted prior to joining the team:
- IATA LAR, DGR certification
- NYC Department of Health Animal Handling
- IPATA pet shipping proficiency training
- Knowledge of USDA and CDC regulations for import and export
- TSA Background Investigation
- Secure Identification Display Area ("SIDA") training
- SIDA Driver Training
President & CEO
Elizabeth A. Schuette, President and CEO of The ARK Import Export Center, LLC oversees all day-to-day operations of JFK International Airport's animal health, reception, and quarantine center - The ARK at JFK. The ARK provides safe and humane animal reception, accommodation, handling and transport services to airlines and their ground handling agents as well as shippers, forwarders, and individuals. Elizabeth works closely with senior TSA, CBP, USDA and CDC officers, Port Authority of New York and New Jersey officials, IATA representatives, as well as airline executives, public health officials and veterinary medical experts. Elizabeth is an active contributor to animal shipping trade organizations including the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association ("IPATA") and Animal Transportation Association ("ATA").
Prior to taking on her responsibilities at The ARK, Elizabeth served as Managing Director with Racebrook Capital (Developer of The ARK) with strategic planning, compliance and oversight responsibilities. She is a licensed real estate broker in CT, FL and RI. In addition, Elizabeth is President of George Washington Mortgage & Investment Corp. - a closely held boutique firm that manages real estate assets in NY and MD and provides consulting services on asset portfolio acquisitions.
Earlier in her career, Elizabeth managed the operations division (credit analysis, servicing and asset disposition) of banks and equipment leasing companies including ICON Capital, HSBC/Concord Leasing, Household International, and Citytrust (acquired by Chase). She was a financial/portfolio analyst with Booz Allen and Hamilton and Kaplan Smith and Associates (acquired by Boston Consulting Group).
Elizabeth received her B.A. in Economics with High Honors from The College of William and Mary and a M.A. in Economics from The George Washington University.
Elizabeth is the proud pet parent of adorable Tucker, ARK Ambassador.
Director of Sales & Marketing
Kiera Mejia is the Director of Sales & Marketing for The ARK at JFK working alongside the President & CEO to communicate the core message of The ARK. She manages the Pet Shipping team, updates social media outlets, manages The ARK JFK and ARK Pet Oasis websites, searches for outreach opportunities, and content marketing. Kiera first joined The ARK as an Equine Attendant, working alongside a team in the Export Barn to provide basic care for horses, prepare and clean stalls for horses coming and going, and maintaining a bio-secure environment. She then moved on to create outreach and marketing content for every division within The ARK at JFK such as ARK Pet Oasis, Equine Export, Equine Import, and the Aviary/In-Transit facility. As the business grew, she began assisting pet parents with reservations for their companions traveling into or out of JFK/LGA/EWR airports and from there developed the Pet Shipping department. Kiera can be seen wearing many hats at The ARK with a smile on her face and is always quick to lend a helping hand wherever it is needed. Kiera is a Queens, NY native with a Bachelor of Business Administration and a minor in Entrepreneurship from the Zicklin School of Business at Baruch College. Since receiving a certificate for "Animal Care and Passion" in Kindergarten, Kiera finds that being able to work with animals daily a luxury. She began riding horses when she was 8-years old and grew up around dogs, cats, birds, and rabbits. During her years as a student at Baruch College, Kiera worked as a waitress, bartender, and assistant manager at a neighborhood restaurant while training and caring for horses in her spare time. After graduating, she joined a Social Media Marketing and Consulting agency where she was tasked with educating, consulting, and selling social media strategies for a variety of businesses. With a wealth of knowledge in hospitality, management, marketing and animal welfare, Kiera joined The ARK at JFK excited to turn her lifelong passion into a career. Kiera is a proud dog-mom to Cyrus, the Formosan Mountain Dog, rescued from North Shore Animal League. She will never forget Akuma, her Lionhead rabbit who she loved for 10-years and unfortunately passed away in September 2021.
Customer Relationship Manager
Chris Lapkowski studied at Juniata College, a small liberal arts college located in central Pennsylvania. There, he received a Bachelor's of Science in Wildlife Conservation with a minor in Education. During his time in college, he studied a wide array of fields from the broad study of Ecology, Botany, and Wildlife Management, to the more specific Plant Ecology, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), and Vertebrate Zoology. He has experience in the field, catching and releasing all vertebrates (animals with a backbone), and can identify both plants and animals down to their Genus and species. The fields of Mammalogy and Herpetology (the study of mammals and reptiles/amphibians respectively) are his main interest. Chris has also worked with large mammals such as deer and bears.
Chris has experience teaching in the classroom through his minor in Education as well as his college employment at Science In Motion; a mobile education where teachers go to local middle and high schools and provide equipment and teach in the fields of Chemistry, Biology and Environmental Science.
Prior to joining the team at ARK Pet Oasis, Chris gained managerial experience at the age of 23, where he was the Head Bartender in a restaurant located on Long Island. There, he learned to manage employees both older and younger than himself and handle the various situations that can arise within the customer service and restaurant industry. Chris joined the team at ARK Pet Oasis as an Animal Attendant and worked his way up to Manager and has since transitioned to The ARK at JFK as a Customer Experience Manager working with pet parents and other shippers around the world to coordinate inbound and outbound services for traveling pets. He is tasked with understanding the requirements for entry of various countries, completing international and domestic health certificates alongside an Accredited Veterinarian, communicating with airlines to book flights for pets, and follow country regulations to ensure a seamless experience for both the pet parent and their companions.
Chris has had a wide array of companions of his own ranging from dogs, cats, small mammals like gerbils/hamsters, reptiles, and some invertebrates like hermit crabs. Currently he is accompanied by his 2 and half year-old pup Sadie. She is a Shi Tzu, Bichon Frise mix which is actually called a "Teddy Bear".
Manager, ARK Pet Oasis
Sara Ovadia is the Manager at ARK Pet Oasis and she enjoys taking care of the animals that transit through JFK International Airport. She is passionate in ensuring that all animals have a safe and stress-free experience. In addition to providing pre- and post-flight care services, Sara also assists with check-in and pick-up services for pets and other animals traveling within the United States or Internationally alongside her amazing colleagues. She is a quick learner who is eager to excel in her position with The ARK and is always looking for ways to improve internal processes and services to ultimately better care for the traveling animals. Sara's love of animals began at a young age when she started volunteering at animal shelters and running her own dog-walking and pet-sitting business in high school as a hobby and passion. She also started a service on the side for the elderly who were unable to walk their dogs due to aging and disabilities and has made lots of furry companions over the years. With over 6-years of experience working with dogs that have a variety of temperaments and personalities, Sara does her best to understand them and make them feel loved and cared as her own. Sara joined The ARK to turn her love of animals into a career and to be able to provide a safe and stress-free environment for all the animals that transit through ARK Pet Oasis. Sara has two fur-babies: Booba a 6-year-old Shih-Tzu and Ben a 1-year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
CDC Dog Import Administrator
Luis Anibal Espinal is an Animal Attendant at ARK Pet Oasis who provides services for animal traveling through JFK International Airport. His experience as a veterinary technician allows him to provide that extra level of care and understanding for pets to ensure their transit through ARK Pet Oasis is as smooth and stress-free as possible. Luis has been working with different types of animals such as horses, chickens, birds, dogs, cats, etc. for over a decade. He was born and raised in the Dominican Republic and currently resides in Queens, NY. In his native-town, Luis attended ISA University where he was the captain of the basketball team and graduated with a degree in Animal Production Engineering. Throughout his life, Luis has worked in many fields within the animal industry such as farms, hospitals, dog training, and now in animal travel with ARK Pet Oasis. Luis is always looking for ways to increase his knowledge and provide the best all-around service for any type of animal that crosses his path.
Dr. Vincent DiCicco, DVM
Chief Veterinary and Biosecurity Compliance Officer
An already familiar face at The ARK, Dr. DiCicco has taken on the role of Chief Veterinary and Bio-Security Compliance Officer. In this position, Dr. DiCicco is responsible for overseeing the operation's compliance with best veterinary care practices as well as bio-security requirements that support animal transportation. Dr. DiCicco works with USDA-APHIS VMOs to coordinate bio-security measures for The ARK's equine export stable and 48 stall equine quarantine. In addition, Dr. DiCicco will address animal welfare needs and oversee various agreements that The ARK has with various City, State and Federal agencies.
DiCicco has been deemed uniquely qualified for this role based on his 40-year experience as an equine practitioner at Belmont Park, Yonkers, Saratoga, Aqueduct and Roosevelt racetracks. In addition, DiCicco provides practice consulting for small animal veterinarians and is familiar with all shipping requirements for companion animals. DiCicco holds a Category 2 USDA accredited veterinary license and finds time to serve on the United State Trotting Association's Harness Racing Medical Collaborative along with some of the best academics, equine research pharmacologists and practicing veterinarians in the nation.
Separate and apart from his compliance position at The ARK, DiCicco will continue to provide veterinary medical services to the JFK and New York equine stakeholder community in support of equine imports and provide veterinary care to those traveling with their domestic animals. All imports for the Yonkers International Trot come through this state-of-the-art facility at JFK.
DiCicco received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy.
Customer Interface Administrator
Janet Gonzalez is the Customer Interface Administrator at The ARK. Janet's passion for animals began at a very young age, she had always wanted to become a veterinarian. She grew up in a home where pets were always welcome and recalls having 5 small dogs, 1 cat, 2 birds, and a fish, and they all got along together! Going to the Bronx Zoo was the highlight of Janet's childhood summers and as an adult, she became a Wildlife Conservation Society Member. Janet taught her children about this amazing world that we share with animals. Her 3rd and current fur-baby is a 6-year-old Shiba-Inu x Husky mix named "Shusky" and she calls him her "everything buddy".
Janet completed a Veterinary Assistant course that helped her obtain a position as an Assistant Animal Handler at North Shore Animal League while in between jobs in the travel industry.
She earned an AAS degree in Travel, Tourism and Hospitality Management from LaGuardia Community College. Janet gained experience as a Guest Service Agent during an internship at Walt Disney World and worked for several years managing the front desk at the Quality Hotel and The Hilton. Janet's next chapter in her career brought her to JFK Airport where she was employed by Meegan Services as an Airport Manager for over 20 years. She worked in many aspects of the travel customer service industry including hotel reservations, transportation, baggage storage, completing travel forms, amongst many other travel related tasks. Once Janet learned of the development and opening of The ARK at JFK, she knew that this is where her next step would be. Being able to apply her extensive hospitality experience, knowledge of airport customer service, and her passion for animals, becoming a part of the team at The ARK was the best decision she has made. Janet comes to work at The ARK each day looking forward to the encounters with various adorable traveling companions. Experiencing firsthand the heartwarming reunions that ARK's clients have with their pets is truly rewarding. Knowing that she had a hand in helping calm down a worried pet parent sending their precious cargo on a trip is very satisfying. Janet looks forward to growing with the company and learning more about the operations of what makes The ARK such a successful and enjoyable place to work