Airports have long been known for offering high-end services to their human passengers — for a price. Now, at Kennedy International Airport, the same can be said for animals.
Dogs, cats, horses, birds, fish and even sloths will be able to have their own special accommodations at a new center called the Ark at JFK. Services will include things like “pawdicures” for dogs, fancy stalls for racehorses and quarantined lodgings for sick birds.
The offerings at the Ark, which occupies nearly 80,000 square feet and is opening in stages, will range from the essential to the luxurious. Its operation will be far more extensive than that of the previous animal center at the airport, Vetport, which closed in December.
Pet owners willing to part with some extra cash have the option of using the Ark’s Pet Oasis, which opened in January and assists in-transit animals left by their owners before they fly, or by pet shippers or airlines. Ark vehicles can transport animals from jets to the 4,000-square-foot Pet Oasis. Staff members groom, feed, water, walk and play with the animals. Rates, which vary by service, are available by request only.
Paradise 4 Paws, an animal resort that already has outposts at airports in Chicago, Dallas and Denver, will open its flagship location at the Ark in early summer, with 20,000 square feet there for its posh accommodations. It will serve dogs and cats of traveling pet parents, as well as animals owned by airport employees and people living nearby.
The resort will have 150 suites, 130 for dogs and the remainder for cats. The largest, the 9-by-12-foot “Top Dog Suite,” will contain a full-size bed and a 32-inch flat-screen TV. Owners will be able to keep tabs on their pets via a 24-hour webcam.
Paradise 4 Paws will offer massages and nail treatments, along with a bone-shaped splashing pool for dogs. Rates will range from $35 to $125 a night, depending on the size of the accommodations and type of pet.
For jet-setting horses, a 5,000-square-foot, 23-stall export center opened in January. Its luxurious stalls have nonslip flooring and high-end hay for animals to eat and bed down on.
A 20,000-square-foot equine import and quarantine center, with 48 stalls, will open by June. It will serve racing, polo, sport and show horses being imported into the United States. Special vehicles will transport the horses directly from jet stalls to the center, and Olympic grooms will be able to exercise the horses there.
Birds — from tropical species and penguins to gulls — will find lodging in a 5,000-square-foot aviary that will serve both individual and commercial bird shippers.
The Ark, which cost $65 million to build, will not be all dog massages and conciergelike hotel services. It will also have a veterinary hospital and perform federally required quarantines and disease prevention.
Horses, birds and some other animals that enter the United States must be quarantined three to 30 days so their health can be monitored and any medical conditions treated before they are admitted. Sloths, for example, are highly regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and will be provided a safe, warm environment while quarantined.
Derek Huntington, managing director of Capital Pet Movers and president of the International Pet and Animal Transportation Association, said the Ark was the only major U.S. airport facility dedicated to handling inbound and outbound pets. Cuticelli conferred with Huntington while planning the Pet Oasis.
The association estimates that 2 million pets and other live animals are transported by air annually in the United States. The figure rises to over 4 million worldwide.
Outside the United States, Lufthansa has operated a 43,000-square-foot “Animal Lounge” at the airline’s hub airport in Frankfurt since 2008. Far older is the Heathrow Animal Reception Center, operated by the City of London since 1977.
Typical airline passengers traveling with pets will not be required to use the Ark. At less expense, they can still arrange for their pets’ transport on their own, by flying them in cargo or in some cases in the airplane cabin of their flight.