New York’s new wait­ing lounge for pets: pool for dogs, the best hay for horses

The Hamilton Spectator - - TRAVEL - ANDREA SACHS

We hu­man trav­ellers have wine bars, mas­sage chairs and in-ter­mi­nal yoga classes if we care to pay for them at air­ports. Our pets have a crate and wa­ter.

In an ef­fort to im­prove equal­ity among the species, the world’s first pri­vately owned an­i­mal ter­mi­nal and quar­an­tine re­cently opened at John F. Kennedy In­ter­na­tional Air­port in New York.

The ARK at JFK of­fers round-the-clock ser­vice to an­i­mals with flight plans. The $65 mil­lion cen­tre oc­cu­pies a hulk­ing 178,000-square-foot cargo build­ing that is in­ti­mate enough for a kit­ten and roomy enough for a Bel­gian draft horse. The new fa­cil­ity’s mis­sion is to pro­vide a safe, healthy and Zen en­vi­ron­ment for an­i­mals on the go. To en­sure the high­est stan­dards of care, Race­brook, the com­pany be­hind the project, part­nered with such ex­perts as Cor­nell Univer­sity’s Col­lege of Ve­teri­nary Medicine and the Agri­cul­ture De­part­ment.

“Trans­port­ing live cargo by plane can be a com­plex and stress­ful process for own­ers and an­i­mals alike,” said John Cu­ti­celli Jr., chief ex­ec­u­tive of Race­brook and founder and chair of ARK Devel­op­ment. “Our goal is to cre­ate a more ef­fi­cient and safe process by re­duc­ing the need for ad­di­tional travel and of­fer­ing trained an­i­mal care staff pre- and post flight.”

In early Jan­uary, Race­brook/ARK Devel­op­ment un­veiled the first phase of its Dr. Dolit­tle en­ter­prise — the ARK Pet Oa­sis and the Equine and Live­stock Ex­port Cen­ter. The com­pany, which expects the ARK to be fully op­er­a­tional by the sec­ond quar­ter, will next roll out the Equine Quar­an­tine/Im­port, Grooms’ Lounge and Aviary, which are all part of the ARK Im­port-Ex­pert Cen­ter.

In Novem­ber, I vis­ited the 14.4-acre fa­cil­ity, where work­men out­num­bered an­i­mals 10 to 0. Nev­er­the­less, Cu­ti­celli showed me around the fa­cil­ity-in-progress. He ex­plained that ARK caters to trav­ellers who send their an­i­mals as cargo and don’t want Pre­cious lan­guish­ing in the hold­ing tank be­fore or af­ter the trip. (By com­par­i­son, own­ers who carry their pets on-board or check them as lug­gage have quick ac­cess to their an­i­mals.) He showed me the area where the ma­jor­ity of com­pan­ion an­i­mals will stay: the Pet Oa­sis, an airy space with 47 ken­nels for dogs and a dozen spots for cats.

The Oa­sis wel­comes pets ar­riv­ing, de­part­ing or in-be­tween flights for an ac­com­mo­da­tion fee start­ing at $125. Be­fore take­off, the own­ers can drop off their an­i­mal at the fa­cil­ity, which will pre­pare the pet for travel — a pre­flight walk and sur­vey of the crate for air­line com­pli­ance, for in­stance. The staff will trans­port the pet to the air­craft and co-or­di­nate with the air­line on the de­par­ture time to min­i­mize the wait at the board­ing area.

On the ar­rival side, the staff picks up the four-legged trav­eller from the air­plane and han­dles the cus­toms de­tails. Once at the Oa­sis, the an­i­mal re­ceives the full-on pam­per­ing treat­ment: bath, meal, fur-coat brush­ing, stroll on a wide strip of lawn. The staff also cleans the travel crate and tucks the pup into an in­di­vid­ual ken­nel un­til his or her ride ar­rives. The cats are also fed and groomed. Own­ers itch­ing to see their pet can, for an ad­di­tional fee, re­ceive a photo and up­date of their pet’s ARK hol­i­day. (Feel free to share with ev­ery­one in the taxi line.)

The Equine and Live­stock Ex­port Cen­ter is ded­i­cated to horses and live­stock sched­uled for trans­port. Who trav­els with their horses, you might ask? Gen­er­ally, breed­ers, jock­eys and grooms. The cen­tre serves as a rest area for in­spec­tion be­fore horses travel in­ter­na­tion­ally from the United States. The 24 cov­ered stalls come with non­slip floor­ing (on cer­tain ma­te­ri­als, hoofs slide like skates), cushy bed­ding and the Veuve Clic­quot cham­pagne of hay.

Mean­while, the Equine Im­port and Quar­an­tine area will care for horses that have just landed and are sub­jected to a three- to seven-day quar­an­tine, per U.S. rues. Neigh-guests stay in one of 48 stalls and re­ceive two daily feed­ings. In a sep­a­rate sec­tion of the build­ing, the Aviary will house birds re­quired to un­dergo a 30-day quar­an­tine. The ARK has built spe­cial­ized habi­tats for birds of all wing stripes, such as wa­ter­fowl, gulls and para­keets.

A vet clinic is also on the hori­zon, as is Par­adise 4 Paws, a lux­ury pet re­sort that al­ready op­er­ates near air­ports in Chicago, Den­ver and Dal­las/Fort Worth. (The lat­ter oc­cu­pants are sub­tenants.) At the re­sort, prices range from $55 to $125 a night for dogs and $30 to $45 for cats. The lodg­ing doesn’t skimp on ameni­ties: There is an in­door grassy area, a play­ground for cats and a dog bone-shaped swim­ming pool. We hu­man trav­ellers don’t get such great perks.

COUR­TESY ARK DEVEL­OP­MENT

The ARK Pet Oa­sis and the Equine and Live­stock Ex­port Cente in New York.

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