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Yes, There Is an Airport Being Designed Just For Animals

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Air travelers have long complained that they’re treated like cattle; and now cattle will actually be treated better than most economy passengers. An entire airport terminal is being built for animals, including a dog spa with “pawdicures” and a bone-shaped doggie wading pool. Yes, it’s all very real, and it will be open next year.

The ARK at JFK is the too-cleverly-named animal handling facility that will start booking your animal traveling companions at New York’s JFK Airport in 2016. The first-ever privately owned terminal for animals will be a “USDA-approved, full-service, 24-hour, airport quarantine facility” which will handle the import and export of racehorses, livestock, and zoo animals, as well as your regular old dogs, cats, and other pets.


This is actually a big deal for people who want to travel with pets or fly in an animal from another country. Current alternatives for New Yorkers bringing animals in or out of the city by air include using the VetPort, a cramped, outdated facility at JFK, then trucking the animals two additional hours to a federal quarantine facility. ARK will offer quarantine service on-site and in-house.

In a plush 178,000 square-foot space designed by Gensler, some of the ARK amenities include climate-controlled stalls, a jogging track, private showers, a Cat Adventure Jungle, and a kind of simulated hourly motel just for penguins which apparently have to mate constantly. Architect Cliff Bollmann knows plenty about creating sleek, comfy spaces for air travel; he was behind the JetBlue terminal (for humans) at JFK. But designing for animal passengers is much more challenging, namely because of all the shit, as he told Crain’s:

In addition to giving temporary shelter to furry and feathered friends in transit, the Ark is designed to house dozens of horses, as well as up to 180 head of cattle that are capable of producing 5,000 pounds of poop every day.

Failure to efficiently dispose of this formidable load could lend an unacceptable stink to a project ­designed to attract the sort of high-end clients who transport their Pomeranian pooch or Persian ­pussycat to far-flung locales. So Mr. Bollmann and his colleagues at architecture firm Gensler have come up with an ingenious plan: Angle the cattle-pen floor just enough so that manure slides away into a receptacle below. They call it the “poo chute.”

“Way too much thought has gone into this,” said Mr. Bollmann with a sigh. “There have been a lot of five-hour meetings.”


In addition to the new details and renderings, we now have the first peek at the ARK at JFK outpost of Paradise 4 Paws, a pet resort where your four-legged friends can stay overnight, perhaps on a layover. Paradise 4 Paws already has airport-friendly locations in Dallas, Denver, and Chicago, but the JFK one will be even more paradise-like, even for human hotel standards:

To entice jet-setters who might otherwise fly their pets out of Teterboro in private planes, the Ark plans to offer pet accommodations that most owners would find plenty comfortable. For instance, the facility will offer a “top-dog suite” that figures to cost at least $100 a night. That’s five times more than the VetPort charges, according to the U.S. State Department. But the suite includes a human-size bed for the dog, a flat-screen TV, a webcam and a bedside photo frame available for a family portrait “to make your pet feel even more at home.


While this all seems like an extreme breed of American animal frivolity, coddling our creatures while they’re in transit is actually very smart, both ethically and financially, points out Kriston Capps at CityLab:

Is the ARK a bad idea? Of course not. As the Associated Press reports, it represents an advance in the way we treat animals, including true service animals. Crain’s reports that the Port Authority will collect $5 million in rent from the ARK over it 27-year lease; and for whatever reason, animal shipments passing through New York are on the rise.


Hey humans, don’t be sad, at least you have yoga rooms now.

[Crain’s via CityLab]

Image via Ark Development LLC; renderings by Gralla Equine Architects