Dr. Shachar Malka

DVM, Diplomate ABVP

Dr. Shachar Malka has more than 15 years of experience working with birds, exotic species and wildlife. Dr. Malka completed four additional years of advanced training in this field after graduating from veterinary school. He completed an internship at the University of Guelph, Canada and a three year residency program at the University of California, Davis. LIBEVC is the third specialty practice that Dr. Malka established. Prior to LIBEVC he founded an Avian and Exotics specialty service at a large regional specialty hospital in California. He later relocated to New York City to join the Humane Society of New York where he developed their Avian and Exotics Program.


He treats exotic animals from the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, Brooklyn, New Jersey, Queens and Long Island. As an exotic animal specialist, cases are often referred to him from all over New York.

Dr. Malka's professional interests include advanced anesthesia, endoscopy and minimally invasive surgery. He performs a variety of surgeries using high-end surgical endoscopy equipment that minimizes the risks associated with surgery, allowing for faster recovery.


Dr. Malka has a strong interest in wildlife conservation. He is the founder of Rift Valley Wildlife Clinics, a 501(c)(3) non-profit that cares for animals in need locally as well as in East Africa, where he volunteers much of his time providing veterinary care in rural areas. He continues to publish scientific articles on a variety of topics in avian and exotic animal medicine and lectures at international veterinary conferences, as well as other regional events. Dr. Malka is a member of AAV, AEMV, ARAV, AAZV and AVMA.

Dr. Nicolle Lofgren


Dr. Lofgren is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Medicine, where she pursued her interest in exotic animal medicine with externships and rotations through exotics hospitals around the world. She joined LIBEVC in 2018 where she is proud to be able to pursue her professional interests, which include urology and aquatic animal medicine. Dr. Lofgren speaks Mandarin, and in her spare time enjoys skiing and spending time with her husband, two ferrets, and axolotl.

Dr. Ashley Palkowetz


Dr. Palkowetz is a graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine where she had a large interest in wildlife and zoological medicine. Dr. Palkowetz’s externships in school were performed at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, and the Philadelphia Zoo. She is excited to start her work at LIBVEC and is looking forward to meeting your furry, feathered and scaly family. When “Dr. P” is not working, she enjoys sewing (making costumes for competitions), video games and quoting entire Disney movies.   

Dr. Gina Vecere


Dr. Vecere graduated from the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. While there, she participated in the Wildlife Medical Clinic, and continued to explore her interests in wildlife and exotic animal medicine through externships at zoos and hospitals as far reaching as South Africa. Her professional interests include reptile medicine and diagnostic imaging. Dr. Vecere grew up in the Hudson Valley, and enjoys cooking, hiking, and playing with her dog, two cats, bearded dragon, and boa constrictor.  

Kate Huntley


Kate has always had a passion for animals. She grew up with cats and a dog but as an adult has expanded her family through rescue work to include multiple small mammals as well as a crested gecko. Kate originally hails from southern California but her husband’s career brought her out to beautiful Long Island. She is excited to join the LIBEVC team and to expand her knowledge about exotics. When Kate is not working she enjoys taking care of her furry, spiky, and scaly animals and playing video games with her husband.  

Gia Kozar


Gia has loved animals since before she could walk. Growing up on a farm, she learned very quickly how to work with and care for many different kinds of animals. She has been involved with animal rescue for many years, volunteering and fostering for a number of shelters and private rescues. Gia hopes to someday be a veterinarian herself and knows that the valuable experiences at LIBEVC will help her on this path. In her time off she enjoys going on hikes and spending time in nature with her husband and their two dogs as well as reading and cuddling with their two cats. 

Jesse Karassik

Licensed Veterinary Technician

Jesse is an LVT who graduated from SUNY Delhi in 2013 and has had a passion for working with and rehabilitating animals since a young age. He has been a bird owner for most of his life and is committed to treating and handling animals with compassion. He enjoys sculpting, writing short stories, yoga, and spending time with his Yellow Nape Amazon.

Stephanie Wieczorek

Licensed Veterinary Technician

Stephanie is an LVT who graduated Mercy College in 2020. With a passion for animals of all shapes and sizes at a young age, she knew she would work with them as a profession. She grew up with an abundance of species from dogs, cats, birds, reptiles, fish and small mammals. On her free time she loves to go hiking with her Labrador, play video games, and spend time with her husband, cats, Leopard Gecko and rats.

Natalia Velez

Licensed Veterinary Technician

Natalia is an LVT who graduated from Mercy College in February of 2020. She’s always had a passion for exotics since she was little and grew up around some exotics of her own. While in college, she worked at Petco and learned to work with different types of animals besides dogs and cats. Before working at LIBEVC, Natalia had an internship at Central Park Zoo where her love for exitics deepened. Working with grizzly bears to hamsters, penguins to parakeets, Natalia has a profound respect for all creatures. On her time off, Natalia enjoys jigsaw puzzles, spending time at the beach, hiking, and visiting zoos. 

Sara Woods

Veterinary Assistant

Sara has had a passion for learning and caring for animals from a young age. Growing up with many different animals including dogs, cats, birds and small mammals. Her first job was working at Petsmart while she was in college and fell in love with working with the animals in the small pet department. Sara had worked as a photographer for a few years before deciding to go back to school to become a vet tech. Working at LIBEVC has helped Sara achieve her dream of working with animals. In her spare time Sara enjoys spending time with her family and dog, reading and taking pictures.

Sarah Hoogenboom

Veterinary Assistant

Sarah has had a passion for animals since she was a little girl. She has always loved caring for them and rescuing ones in need. She is currently a student at Hunter College working towards a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology. She hopes to one day become a vet herself and specialize in exotics and wildlife rehabilitation. She is excited to join the team at LIBEVC. During her free time she enjoys taking care of her reptiles, reading, and writing poetry. 

Katarina Rodriguez

Veterinary Assistant

Katarina, the LIBVEC bun-enthusiast, is working towards becoming a licensed veterinary technician and taking classes through the San Juan College Veterinary Technology Distance Learning Program (VTDLP). She is a self-proclaimed bunny guru, but she will not hesitate to cuddle a meddlesome Macaw or a chatty chameleon. She has a beautiful holland lop waiting for her to come home every day by the name of Skipps. Katarina’s love of animals truly blossomed later in life, when she witnessed at a rehabilitation center the power of small mammals and exotics to motivate people to heal and recover. When Katarina is not busy sneaking extra fruits to her patients, she enjoys soccer, kick boxing, and writing short stories. Stay tuned, Katarina is planning to start bunny-yoga sessions at LIBEVC (after she convinces Dr. Malka first!).

Ryan Phoenix

Veterinary Assistant

Ryan has always had a strong passion for animals for as long as she could remember, growing up with all sorts of furry, feathery and scaly friends. She is a recent graduate from Cornell University with a B.S. in Animal Science, and is currently applying to veterinary schools to pursue a career specializing in marine veterinary medicine. 

In her free time, Ryan loves to visit the beach, go on bike rides, and spend time with her dog, cat, and betta fish. 

The Long Island Bird and Exotics Vet Clinic Team

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