Airports authority officials discussing animal import center at Dulles
A Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority spokeswoman confirmed this week that internal discussions regarding the prospect for an imported animal quarantine center at Dulles have taken place. The spokesperson said talks are in the preliminary stages.
Prior to being released to their owners, animals that enter the U.S. must be tested and isolated for several weeks to ensure they're 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.
Virginia equine industry insiders would like to see a third location in Virginia, namely at Dulles.
MWAA officials for years have been exploring opportunities to develop nearly 430 acres of Dulles airport property known as the “Western Lands.” 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.
An animal import center, with its cargo load for the airport and boost to the commonwealth's equine economy, could prove enticing.
“If it comes to fruition, it will be a tremendous benefit for us,” said Sheryl Williams, the chief operating officer at Leesburg's Morven Park, which hosts equestrian competitions. “It's much closer and much easier to get to. It's cost-effective for our local equestrians. This is a big deal for our international competitors.”
Williams said the discussions over a quarantine facility are being closely monitored by stakeholders in the industry.
Rob Banner, president of the Great Meadow Foundation in Fauquier County, is another strong advocate for the facility.
“This would be a big deal,” Banner said.
Local and state governments have also been involved. Loudoun and Fauquier counties' economic development offices agreed to jointly fund an economic impact and feasibility study for a center.
Loudoun County Economic Development Director Buddy Rizer said he expects the feasibility report to be completed sometime in January. The study is considering things like “what the best practices are, who should operate it,” Rizer said.
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.
The Fauquier Board of Supervisors passed a resolution last year saying an import complex “would substantially increase the viability of bringing international horses to world class events in our region, as well as making it more attractive for international interests to work with breeders and trainers in our area.”
“It is expected that such a project would help grow the equestrian industry in Virginia, would have the potential to increase equestrian-related tourism in the region, and would benefit Dulles Airport by adding to traffic in horses and related goods,” the resolution reads.
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.
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