Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (“MWAA”), the organization that manages Dulles International and Reagan National airports, is considering an animal import center for unused acreage at Dulles Airport.
A Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman confirmed this week that there have been discussions regarding an imported animal quarantine center at Dulles. Prior to being released to their owners, animals that enter the United States must be tested, and isolated for several weeks, in order to ensure they are free of diseases and parasites that could harm American livestock and poultry.
The only two facilities on the East Coast where imported animals are cared for and tested during isolation are in New York and Miami, according to news reports. The Virginia equine industry would like to see a third location in Virginia, namely at Dulles. This is not a new development. MWAA officials have been exploring opportunities to develop nearly 430 acres of Dulles airport property known as the “Western Lands” for years. Monetizing the Western Lands is part of MWAA’s strategy to produce non-aeronautical revenue to help offset billions in debt and the lagging airport traffic at Dulles, which is located in Loudoun County.
Loudoun houses more horses than any county in Virginia with approximately 15,000, and the equine industry creates nearly $140 million in annual economic activity, according to a 2015 University of Virginia study using 2013 statistics. “This animal import facility would help the Virginia equestrian industry, potentially increase equestrian-related tourism in the region, and would benefit Dulles Airport by adding to traffic in horses and related good product.
A model for the facility at Dulles could be the new, $50 million animal import center in New York – “The Ark” at JFK. With construction almost complete, the ARK will be the world’s only privately-owned animal handling cargo terminal and USDA-approved, full-service 24-hour airport quarantine facility for the import and export of horses, pets, birds and livestock, according to its website. However, Dulles Airport care attorney Doug Landau points out that the Virginia International airport has the advantage of being centrally located on the East Coast, with long runways and significant undeveloped acre in close proximity to the Middleburg and Charlottesville horse farms, as well as the nearby University of Virginia Equine Center. Clearly the “Western Lands” should be utilized in conjunction with Airport business so that the synergy can benefit MWAA, Loudoun County and the Commonwealth of Virginia.