JFK's $65-million Animal Terminal Is in Danger of Shutting Down Just One Year After Opening
John F. Kennedy International Airport’s state-of-the-art pet terminal, Ark, was supposed to be a miracle for pet and livestock owners alike. However, it seems this $65-million project is having even more trouble than Noah did.
The Ark opened a year ago with a huge promise — to be the “the world’s only animal terminal and the first full-service quarantine facility,” according to The New York Times. In the beginning, there were dreams of luxury doggie spas, pet pools shaped like bones, and a climate-controlled screening area for international animals.
But now, it’s sitting empty with no animals to care for at all.
The facility’s owner, John J. Cuticelli Jr., is wrapped up in a $426-million lawsuit in State Supreme Court against the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which oversees the airport.
In the lawsuit, Cuticelli claims the Ark has incurred “massive operational losses” due to the Port Authority failing to enforce the lease that would give the Ark exclusive rights to handling and caring for all animals coming from overseas.
The Ark’s bread and butter, so to speak, was to be a main care facility for race horses coming from Europe. These thoroughbreds need to be quarantined for at least three days after arrival to JFK in order to stop spread of potential disease. Before the Ark was built, the horses had to endure a 90-mile ride north to a facility in Newburgh, New York.
The Ark was meant to streamline this process for the horses and their owners, and to have exclusive rights to screen all international animals.
But exclusivity comes at a price, and usually at the cost of animal owners. According to The New York Times, many critics of the facility (most of them being people in charge of shipping these animals) said that the privately owned Ark was too expensive and unnecessary.
However, one such shipping agent, Dr. Scarlette Gotwals, a veterinarian and director of flight operations for Horse America, told The New York Times: “This is exactly what we’ve been looking for. It’s a world-class facility. It’s an indoor, climate-controlled facility. In Newburgh, you’re using outdoor barns.”
According to NBC News, Ark expected to screen about 6,000 horses over the last year, but instead only saw about 40.
“I watch them go by my door every day, trucked up to Newburgh,” Cuticelli told The New York Times.
“It makes no sense to me why the Port Authority, the U.S.D.A. and all the other agencies involved in the creation of this facility are not supporting its use. I entered into a technically, legally binding contract with exclusivity. Otherwise, I never would have done it,” he said.
According to NBC News, owners of the Newburgh facility claim that owners may go to any facility they choose, as long as it’s approved by the U.S.D.A. Since the Ark costs owners a few hundred dollars more, it makes sense that some would choose not to go there. The Port Authority also said that the Ark only has a limited exclusivity provision.
At the moment, Cuticelli claims that he is in imminent danger of shutting down.