A year after the story of a missing cat made international headlines and raised awareness of the dangers of air travel for pets, the airport where Jack the Cat went missing due to employee error in the baggage area of the American Airlines terminal has announced plans for a world class animal care facility to be built on site.
The animal center will provide veterinary, kenneling, grooming and quarantine services, and, hopefully, will be staffed with employees who can and will see that animals get the best possible consideration and care.
Mary Beth Melchior said on the Jack The Cat is Lost in AA Baggage page that she knew this plan was in the works. She wrote at the page, ” It will be a SUBSTANTIAL upgrade from the current VetPort, which is a very old facility. We are hopeful that this will bode will for animals at JFK, but it’s going to be a couple of years before it’s up. We’re keeping our eyes open and crossing our paws…”
The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey made the following news release on September 20:
PORT AUTHORITY APPROVES NATION’S MOST COMPREHENSIVE AVIATION ANIMAL HANDLING FACILITY AT JFK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
Expansive 172,165 square-foot center to operate 24/7 for worldwide import and export needs
A 21st century animal handling facility is coming to John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Port Authority commissioners today approved plans for a world class, $32 million facility at JFK that will handle roughly 70,000 domestic and wild animals annually. The center will set new national airport standards for comprehensive veterinary, kenneling and quarantine services.
The new facility, dubbed ARK, will offer a state-of-the-art veterinary hospital, animal daycare services and more efficient ways to transport animals worldwide, including exotic species. It will create 190 jobs, $12.3 million in wages and $50.5 million in economic activity during the span of the project’s 20-year lease.
ARK Development LLC will take over the currently vacant Building 78 at JFK and 14.4 acres of ground area as part of a 20-year agreement, in which the company will invest approximately $30 million in the 108,650 square-foot main center and another $2 million in a 63,515 square-foot cargo handling facility. The Port Authority anticipates receiving more than $108 million in rent over the lease term, consisting of fixed rent and revenue-sharing percentage fees.
The center also will include a three-day equine quarantine area, dog and cat kenneling and grooming services, an aviary, lawn space for exercising animals and a veterinary hospital and rehabilitation center for horses and other large animals. There will be no animal testing done at the facility.
“The Port Authority is proud to partner with ARK to make air travel at JFK more humane for animals and convenient for pet owners,” said Port Authority Chairman David Samson. “ARK, our private sector partner, will invest $32 million that will result in a world-class animal handling facility and establish a preeminent equine medical and surgical practice.”
“The Port Authority is continually striving to find innovative ways to meet its customers’ needs and this animal handling facility accomplishes that goal for the aviation sector,” said Vice Chair Scott Rechler. “The project also will turn this unused building back into a profitable operation that will earn the agency more than $100 million over the next two decades.”
“While most of our airport passengers walk on two legs, this new center will serve the important travel needs of our four-legged and winged friends, while helping to create regional jobs and significant revenue for the Port Authority,’’ said agency Executive Director Pat Foye. “This is another example of agency staff seeking new ways to meet niche markets and maintaining a leadership role in the aviation industry.”
“By working together, the Port Authority and ARK will bring state-of-the-art animal health services to JFK with private investment,” said agency Deputy Executor Bill Baroni. “Our passengers – and their animals – all benefit from this unique proposal.”
The new ARK will offer a wider array of services than those of the current Vetport, which is located at JFK’s Building 189, and operations will transition without interruption. ARK services will include enhanced animal boarding and equine quarantine space, which will satisfy the present and future needs of airport stakeholders and customers.
While there are animal handling facilities at both Los Angeles and Miami’s airports, ARK at JFK will be larger and offer more comprehensive services than the other two. Additionally, ARK is in extended negotiations with Cornell’s veterinary school, which would serve as the consultant on the project and the operator of the large animal hospital.