By now, all involved in the cargo industry are all too familiar with the massive disruptions in live animal (“AVI”) transportation necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including carrier restrictions on AVI travel, flight cancellations, ground handling delays and suspension of USDA-APHIS Federal quarantines in Miami and New York (see attached) not to mention stay-at-home orders for a majority of the country restricting movement and activity of citizens and employees. Most of these restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future, at least until the end of April, 2020.
The management team of The ARK at JFK has implemented several modifications to our policies and procedures to address the risks and realities of operating during the COVID-19 environment as follows:
First and foremost, the movement and transportation of cargo (including AVI) is currently considered an “essential” service by NYS and NYC and necessary employees may report to work as scheduled.
The ARK is fully operational and will provide import, ground handling, equine quarantine, in-transit and export services for all AVI at JFK, LGA and EWR. Further details regarding each of our business units follow below.
ARK management has adopted off-site working plans for corporate employees not involved in the actual handling and movement of AVI – central phone lines are forwarded to offsite staff - we ask for your understanding in certain communication delays.
On-site staff have been divided into discrete teams to ensure continued operations in the event that quarantine of an employee becomes necessary.
All non-essential visitor access to ARK’s facilities has been restricted, including access to import arrivals by equine agents as well as to Pet Oasis by its customers.
ARK is online daily with PANYNJ/JFK Operations as well as New York City and New York State health officials and receives regular updates on Port, JFK, carrier and Federal agency functions. In addition, ARK management works closely with carrier representatives and GHAs to facilitate timely movement of AVI within JFK.
ARK has distributed its limited supply of N95 masks, gloves and other PPE to all staff involved in AVI transport to provide the greatest protection possible to its employees and others that interact with our employees as recommended guidelines for social distancing are not always attainable when handling animals. ARK has always maintained excellent bio-security measures – fully cleaning and disinfecting (“C&D”) vehicles, equipment, kennels and stables after each use - to mitigate the transmission of disease agents.
ARK has implemented health screening questions for all staff arriving to support AVI movements and reiterated the necessary for precautions to prevent to spread of the virus.
A summary of each ARK business unit’s current capabilities appears below:
PETS and IN-TRANSIT AVI: Currently, the movement of companion animals has not been restricted by any U.S. Federal or New York State agency. However, most airlines have either cancelled international flights or restricted cargo movements of AVI. Domestically, pet movement is restricted to non-stop flights (i.e., no layovers permitted) to limited destinations, necessitating further ground transportation to final destination. ARK’s staff remains online to assist whenever possible; please send inquiries to . ARK Pet Oasis’ kennel is open and available to carriers, shippers and pet owners to provide emergency accommodations for pets and small animals as needed. However, visitor/customer access to the facility is restricted. Export health certificate exams are available on a limited basis. APHIS endorsement of the certificates may only be obtained by transmittal to the Albany, NY office. The APHIS/JFK Port office is not endorsing certificates during this time.
GROUND OPERATIONS AND TRANSPORTATION: Supporting ground handling and transportation functions by ARK staff and provided to ARK by ASAK Solutions remain fully operational and available to move shipments within JFK, to/from other PANYNJ airports and to surrounding communities in NY, CT and NJ. Special requests should be sent to and . When indicated, ground operations and transport staff will be outfitted with appropriate PPE.
EQUINE IMPORT: Carriers with cargo freighters continue to import horses into JFK, primarily from Europe. With the suspension of USDA-APHIS’ operations at NYAIC in Rock Tavern, ARK’s quarantine facility is the only one in the Northeast available to equine importers. With certain modifications, ARK continues to support all equine imports at JFK. All import requests should be directed to with a copy to ; upon receipt of an ARK reservation number, APHIS will process requests for import permit. As noted above, import agents may not access the import arrival area during this pandemic. We understand the hardship this places on your customer service efforts and are endeavoring to provide enhanced communications on the status of shipments to ease any concerns. Further, ARK has obtained PPE for its equine, groom and ground handling staff and has implemented social distancing to the extent possible. We ask that all questions, requests and communications be IN WRITING BY EMAIL to or to and/or . The ARK cannot be accountable for texts or telephone communications to individual employees. Also note, all USDA-APHIS requirements for special handling (e.g., administration of medication, provision of food, walking, etc.) remain in full force and effect; please request accommodations directly from APHIS VMOs. Agents should coordinate equine blood sample retrieval from APHIS and delivery to FedEx.
EQUINE EXPORT: Similarly, ARK continues to support equine exports from JFK. Exports are now subject to a minimum number of 3 horses per flight to optimize utilization of staff. A pro-rated PPE surcharge will be assessed on each export invoice.
CORPORATE STAFF: Where possible, ARK Corporate staff are working off-site but are fully accessible by telephone. ARK COO, Mike Falacara, is on-site daily and accessible by telephone 24/7; Dr. Vincent DiCicco remains involved in all equine imports. Corporate lines have been rolled to secondary or mobile numbers. ARK management participates on all Port and industry conference calls.
The ARK at JFK appreciates our partners’ continued support; we pledge to do our utmost to assist all parties with AVI shipping. We are thankful to our staff for their dedication and commitment.