The ARK : New York’s New Animal Terminal

A $65 Million Bet on Pampered Pet Travel

By Si Si Penaloza

New York’s largest and most iconic airport is building an entire terminal for globe-trotting pet owners. John F. Kennedy International Airport recently announced The ARK, a $48 million luxury terminal opening early next year—exclusively for animals. The ARK offers luxurious amenities: climate-controlled stalls for horses, and, for dogs, a bone-shaped splashing pool and a spa that gives “pawdicures.” All animals will have access to a 24-hour clinic run by Cornell University veterinary hospital.

In the age of six figure Instagram star pets, pet travel is a booming business. Seventy thousand animals travel through JFK annually, and they currently land in VetPort, a utilitarian 10,000-square-foot kennel built in the Eisenhower era. With pet spending on the rise— a 73% increase between 2002 and 2012—the travel industry is naturally targeting animal lovers with expendable cash.

San Francisco architecture firm Gensler (the much touted firm behind Shanghai Tower and Facebook’s impressive HQ) will revamp a 178,000-square-foot former cargo terminal into posh overnight pet boarding facilities, as well as import and export holding areas for animals like horses, who need to be quarantined for three days upon arrival.

This is the same clientele that splurges on new first-class cat and canine cabins aboard American Airlines, and frequent flier miles for furry friends on Virgin Australia and JetBlue. A luxurious stay at The ARK equals social media bragging rights for pet parents. Overnight accommodations, particularly in the dog and cat resort, are predicted to reach $100 a night.

The swankiest part of the ARK isn’t finished yet. The ARK will also feature a 20,000-square-foot dog and cat resort run by Chicago’s popular Paradise 4 Paws.

The resort will include a bone-shaped splash pool, climbing trees in a feline-focused Cat Adventure Jungle, massage therapy and paw pedicures. For longer pet stays, there will be doggie “suites”: rooms with human-size beds, plasma screens for pets to FaceTime with their owners, art, and a “nightly tuck-in service.” A client could say, ‘I want my golden poo swimming twice a day, massaged once a day, running on the treadmill, let outside twice a day, and served a steak dinner.’ All this is possible at the resort part of The ARK.

Photo: Paradise 4 Paws

So what’s in store for 21st Century animal travel? Think aviary with a penguin pavilion. 48 horse stalls brimming with fresh hay. Climate-controlled cattle pens for up to 180 bovines!

We asked pet lovers and travel aficionados on their thoughts on The Ark:

Alexandra Kirkman, who happens to have the same initials as ARK, reports on luxury travel for Forbes. In her downtime she kicks back in New York with Francis, her handsome ragdoll feline.

Considering that ‘fur babies’ are beloved family members, and that horror stories of pets becoming ill or worse in flight are increasingly making headlines, The ARK seems to have found the rare unexploited niche. My grandmother always said that pets don’t live nearly as long as they should, so we should strive to make their lives as wonderful as possible. That said, why shouldn’t they deserve a safe, relatively stress-free journey, and a ‘pawdicure’ in the process?

Janet Zuccarini, powerhouse restaurateur and resident judge on Top Chef Canada All-Stars

I am well versed in the art of travelling with a pet as I live in L.A. and Toronto. Flying with my dog Roma can be stressful at times: from having people sit next to me who are allergic to dogs and then proceed to cause a fuss, to facing long line ups just to show Roma’s papers to customs officers before exiting. If I have to show Roma’s papers before boarding the plane, then why are we out through this secondary process? I’m all for the humane treatment of animals and would most likely use the Ark, especially for their added grooming services, but more so to alleviate travel stress and make it a more comfortable journey for Roma.

Greg and Terese Bricker, pet parents of Charlie the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier

The ARK at JFK acknowledges the growing belief that for many travelers, pets are far more than cargo and to some, they are family.  It is reassuring knowing that Charlie will be cared for, can have dinner, relieve himself, or even have a game of chase; which will make his travels less stressful. A facility of this nature opens up more travel possibilities for us and our Charlie on his European tour.

Aiden Chase, celebrity healer and intuitive based in Santa Barbara

All souls, including our animal loved ones, need love and humane care. I travel regularly with my ruby Cavalier King Charles Sydney. Although The ARK sounds decadent, I know Sydney would enjoy its doggie 5 star treatment.

Jennifer Bassett and Sam Bennett, event planners and society doyennes with two loveable mastiffs

As an owner of two South African mastiffs travelling with them is almost impossible unless by car. Now we have options. Maybe The ARK’s next development will be sea planes. When we fly up north to the cottage, our dogs are too much weight so they have to be chauffeured!

The Ark Pet Oasis