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.
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.
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”.
Sara Ovadia is the Supervisory Animal Attendant at ARK Pet Oasis who enjoys taking care of the animals that transit through JFK International Airport and is passionate in ensuring they 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 of 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.