WASHINGTON — While most of the present and future growth surrounding Dulles International Airport is based on its proximity to the nation’s capital, a short trip in the opposite direction lands visitors in the midst of Northern Virginia’s horse country.
Loudoun County business officials say Dulles would be the perfect location for a new animal quarantine facility, and believe it could be built by 2019. Animals are quarantined to make sure they don’t carry disease or parasites.
“Any animals traveling internationally have to be quarantined for an amount of time,” said Kellie Hinkle, Loudoun’s agricultural business development officer. “The amount of time depends on the specific animal and the actual sex of the animal — it could be anywhere from two weeks to two months.”
“Many people have seen the Kentucky Derby or the Preakness, there are a lot of international horse owners and international horses,” said Hinkle.
Currently, the only two quarantine facilities on the East Coast are at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and Miami International Airport.
Hinkle said Loudoun and Fauquier counties partnered on a feasibility study focused on whether a horse facility could be supported, given the two counties host a combined 130 horse shows annually.
“Our study was trying to determine if there was enough need for a third equestrian facility in the Mid-Atlantic,” said Hinkle. “We determined there is.”
Hinkle said with races in New York, Baltimore and Kentucky, “it seems like Loudoun County and Northern Virginia was positioned well for a third quarantine facility.”
“The equine industry contributes more than $180 million to Loudoun’s economy each year,” said Buddy Rizer, executive director of the county’s department of economic development, in a statement. “Loudoun also has the most robust equine industry in Virginia, and is home to more than 15,000 horses.”
In addition, Hinkle said the facility could support other livestock industries, including cattle, sheep and goats.
It could lessen stress and expense for people in the region moving with pets that have to be quarantined.
“Anyone who’s being deployed, living in Northern Virginia, serving in the military, doesn’t actually have to drive to Miami to pick up their family pet,” said Hinkle.
Hinkle said Dulles Airport is aware of the proposal and considering whether to add the equine facility to its cargo processing offerings.
“Our intention would be for the private sector to build it, operate it, run it,” said Hinkle. “We actually are currently talking to three different private sector developers that are interested in the project.
The public is invited to a free presentation about the quarantine facility on March 30, at Harmony Hall, in Hamilton, Virginia.