When most people think of the Ark, they think of the biblical story of Noah protecting the animals on the ark he built. At JFK International Airport, there really is an arch!

The ARK at JFK is an animal handling terminal dedicated to the safe passage of all creatures large and small and like Noah’s Ark they are the first of their kind. They have been serving the JFK community since 2017 with direct 24/7 airside access, ensuring a smooth transition for all animals arriving and departing JFK Airport.

To provide such an essential service, they work closely with their federal and local partners at USDA, CDC, USFWS, CBP, and PANYNJ. There are a lot of moving parts with passenger travel, and animal travel is significantly more complicated. Animals arriving from outside the United States must be quarantined. When they arrive at The ARK, they experience world-class hospitality and rest in state-of-the-art accommodations designed for their specific needs.

ARK recently obtained its IATA CEIV certification after going through an exhaustive application and audit process to ensure that it provides the best services to the animals it handles. They have USDA accredited veterinarians on site to provide travel certificates and help with any animals and pets that may need assistance. Their veterinarians also assist working animals at JFK Airport with Transportation Security Administration and U.S. Customs and Border Protection K-9 teams.

Multiple divisions work well together to deliver the best experience for animals, pet owners, stakeholders, airlines and staff. There are the ARK Pet Oasis, Equine Export, Equine Import and Aviary/In-Transit segments.

Ark at Team JFK
Chris Lapkowski (L.-Right): Mike Falacara, COO; Alyssa Burke., Director of Operations; Elizabeth Schuette, President and CEO; Kiera Mejia, Director of Sales and Marketing; Chris Lapkowski, Customer Experience Manager

The ARK at JFK is the vision of Elisabeth Schuette, Chairman and CEO. Since inception and development, she has overseen day-to-day operations as Managing Director of Racebrook Capital, developers of The ARK at JFK.

A talented team supports Ms. Schuette in the operations of the establishment. Mike FalacaraCOO, joined the team in 2020 with over 30 years of experience and knowledge in operations, ground handling and cargo at JFK Airport.

“I’m thrilled to be part of this entrepreneurial company,” says Mike. “This is an opportunity to bring a niche industry to the forefront of the aviation community here at JFK Airport and beyond. I look forward to the challenge of taking the business to the next level and delivering the range of services that Operation ARK offers to customers and airlines.

Kiera Mejia has been at The ARK since the beginning. She started out as a horse attendant tending to the thousands of horses that come through the doors every year. Ms. Mejia is currently Director of Sales and Marketing. She manages the Pet Shipping team, updates social media, manages the ARK and ARK Pet Oasis websites, and researches outreach and content marketing opportunities.

Kiera is the focus of this month Fast Five interview on page 5.

ARK’s Director of Operations and Logistics is Alyssa Burk. Ms. Burke is responsible for the day-to-day operations of ARK; overseeing the completion of day-to-day equine import and export operations, coordinating all ground movements, and ensuring compliance with Port Authority of New York and New Jersey rules and regulations, Customs and protection of the United States and all federal partners. Alyssa comes to The ARK with several years of human resources and business administration experience at one of JFK’s largest ground handling companies.

Pet parents need a little support with their beloved pets’ travel plans. It’s there that Chris Lapkowski arrived. Chris started as an animal handler and worked his way up to customer experience manager. Things can get complicated with regulations, certifications, schedules, international policies, quarantines, airlines, and compliance with federal partners. Pet parents can rest easy knowing Chris has them covered during a potentially stressful time.

Sara Ovadia is the Supervising Animal Attendant at ARK Pet Oasis. She takes care of Fluffy and Fido as if they were her own. Her love of animals began at a young age through her volunteering at local animal shelters and her high school dog-walking and dog-sitting business. Sara is the perfect leader to ensure animals traveling through JFK are stress-free and safe.

So when you think of the ark in biblical terms, it’s definitely a nod to what’s happening at The ARK at JFK.

If you have any questions about traveling with your pet or having your pet travel alone, contact The ARK, they are ready to provide you and your pet with a fantastic experience.

The Ark at JFK

78A N. Boundary Road

Jamaica, New York 11430

Tel: (212) 532-0084

Ark Pet Oasis

78A N, border road

Loading area D

Jamaica, New York 11430

Tel: (212) 973-8275