Kiera Mejia joined The ARK as an Equine Attendant, working alongside a team in the Export Barn to provide basic care for horses, prepare and clean stalls for horses coming and going, and maintain a bio-secure environment. Kiera created outreach and marketing content for every division within The ARK at JFK, such as ARK Pet Oasis, Equine Export, Equine Import, and the Aviary/In-Transit facility. Kiera can be seen wearing many hats at The ARK at JFK and is always quick to lend a helping hand wherever it is needed. Since receiving a certificate for “Animal Care and Passion” in Kindergarten, Kiera finds that being able to work with animals daily is a luxury.
1 Can you tell us about the ARK at JFK and why a dedicated terminal for animals is necessary?
Kiera: The ARK at JFK provides pre-and post-travel animal care and veterinary services for pets, horses, birds, non-domesticated mammals, and exotic animals in an efficient, safe, and low-stress environment for our human and animal clients. Having a dedicated animal reception center makes a huge difference in the process and experience for traveling pets and their families. Although not all pets are required to pass through ARK Pet Oasis, it puts many families at ease knowing that there are resources available if they need them. Pet owners who set up a reservation in advance know precisely where to go, when to arrive, and what to do, making traveling with their pet a lot less stressful. In addition, agents who work with us feel comfortable knowing that their client’s pets are cared for at the soonest possible time after arrival or before departure.
Having an animal reception center on airport property with airside access is important because it decreases the time a pet remains in its travel crate. It also provides airlines and ground handling agents with a convenient location to transport pets to and from. In addition, ARK Pet Oasis is a customs bonded facility; we are authorized to provide care and other services for pets that have not yet cleared customs.
2 Are there any animals not permitted entry at The ARK at JFK?
Kiera: The ARK can provide services for any animal transiting through JFK airport. However, we can only physically care for pets and other domesticated animals. Non-domesticated and exotic animals such as sloths, honeybadgers, capybaras, or eagles, will remain in their enclosure in one of The ARK’s temperature-controlled rooms and be provided with food and water. Other types of specialized exotics such as sharks, elephants, lions, tigers, or bears would not pass through The ARK at JFK unless special arrangements are made.
Horses are one of our most frequent flyers, aside from dogs and cats, at ARK Pet Oasis. For exports, horses get to lounge in The ARK’s state-of-the-art Equine Export facility, which has 23 individual 12×12’ stalls that include a bed of shavings, plenty of hay, and unlimited water throughout the horse’s stay with us. The ARK is also home to JFK airport’s USDA-approved private Equine Import and Quarantine center, where horses walk right off the jet-stall and into their stall to begin their quarantine period, typically 3-days.
3 What is the most challenging animal The Ark at JFK has hosted?
Kiera: Birds are the most involved types of shipments we work with due to the high level of biosecurity from when they land until they are loaded onto the next plane or vehicle. The aircraft must be properly disinfected, and the individuals handling the birds must wear Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). If the birds are housed at The ARK’s Avian In-Transit facility, it must be disinfected after their stay, and any vehicle used to transport the birds must also be disinfected.
Horses can also be very challenging during transport. They prefer to travel in groups, may refuse to load onto their trailer or jet-stall, and may even require a sedative. Managing a 2,000-pound unruly animal can be challenging, even for professional horse handlers.
4 Are illegally transported animals a big problem in the United States?
Kiera: Prior to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) temporary suspension of dogs entering the US from countries classified as high-risk for dog rabies, there were many cases of dogs being imported without proper or potentially fraudulent documentation.
This is a significant problem in the efforts to keep rabies eradicated from the USA, which led the CDC to require eligible individuals to obtain an import permit before entry to the United States from countries with a high risk for dog-rabies. We often see animals traveling in non-compliant crates – either the crates will be too small for the animals, or the crate may not have proper ventilation.
5 What is your advice for people traveling with their pets?
Kiera: Plan ahead! Every country has its own set of rules, so it’s essential to make sure that your pet qualifies to travel to that specific country. In many cases, some requirements need to be met months in advance, making last-minute travel impossible.
Allow your pet plenty of time to acclimate to their travel crate in order to be more comfortable and less stressed on the day of travel.
It can make a big difference working with a professional Pet Shipper who has plenty of experience and understands airline and government regulations to ensure a seamless experience for you and your pet. Even though the Pet Shipper is doing the work on your behalf, you should take the time to understand each step of the process to best prepare your companion for their journey.