Because it’s for animals.

By Emily Saladino
August 28, 2015
Credit: © ARK Development LLC

They say peace of mind is priceless, which may explain why New York’s biggest airport is building an entire terminal for globe-trotting pet owners. That’s right: John F. Kennedy International Airport recently announced The ARK, a $48 million luxury terminal opening early next year—exclusively for animals.

San Francisco architecture and design firm Gensler (the firm behind Shanghai Tower and Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ) will transform the 178,000-square-foot former cargo terminal into luxe digs encompassing 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 to control contagion.

The ARK will also, naturally, have a 20,000-square-foot dog and cat “resort” run by Chicago-based Paradise 4 Paws, which operates pet retreats at DFW, ORD, DIA and MDW. The space at JFK will have a bone-shaped splash pool and flat screen TVs for dogs, climbing trees in a feline-focused Cat Adventure Jungle, massage therapy and paw pedicures for both, and webcams so owners can check in on four-legged friends from afar.

There will also be 48 hay-lined horse stalls, an aviary with a penguin pavilion, and climate-controlled cattle pens for up to 180 bovine guests. For the latter, Gensler consulted Temple Grandin to ensure optimal handling, such as single-file deplaning on a winding route.

All animals will have access to a 24-hour clinic run by Cornell University veterinary hospital. Overnight accommodations, particularly in the dog and cat resort, are predicted to reach $100 a night.

Unconditional love don’t cost a thing, but pet travel is big business. Seventy thousand animals travel through JFK annually, and they currently land in VetPort, a modest, 10,000-square-foot kennel built in the 1950s. With pet spending on the rise—Marketwatch reports a 73 percent increase between 2002 and 2012—the travel industry is wisely targeting deep-pocketed animal lovers. Consider the new first-class cat and canine cabins aboard American Airlines, and frequent flier miles for furry friends on Virgin Australia and JetBlue. A hundred bucks for a night at The ARK is a mere drop in the (feed) bucket.