The traditional animal shelter experience might go a little something like this: You walk into a well-used facility full of hard-working volunteers and kenneled animals who are desperate to be adopted.
Then, you either walk away with a new furry friend, or heartbroken that there isn’t more you could do for every animal looking for a safe, new home — or both.
Similar to many other holistic initiatives in the animal adoption space, Best Friends Animal Society is working to change this experience to create a better future for pets and pet-lovers alike.
In Bentonville, Arkansas, the nonprofit has just opened the doors of its first-ever Best Friends Pet Resource Center, which is designed to be a modern, community-oriented space with resources beyond just adoption.
By the way, you might also like: Reasons to Adopt a Dog
The 20,000-square-foot property is designed without cages or kennels, but instead utilizes animal foster care, meet-and-greet rooms, play yards, and free-roam pet housing.
According to a press release from Best Friends Animal Society, the facility will serve an estimated 13,000 dogs and cats each year.
But the space goes beyond sheltering and adoption. Programs include:
- A veterinary clinic that offers spay and neuter surgeries, vaccinations, microchips, dental care, and more to homeless dogs, or pets from income-qualifying families
- Adoption, foster, and volunteer programs that work alongside other shelters to save the lives of animals
- Sleepovers for long-distance transports
- A Pet Care Navigator, which helps struggling pet owners get direct access to resources that can help them better care for their pets
- A pet supply pantry for those in need, supported by community donations and other social service agencies
- Specialized foster care for pets who need extra training or are in recovery from illness or injury
- Family-friendly humane education and on-site classes with the Northwest Arkansas Partnership for Animal Welfare
- A coffee shop and lounge that offers drinks and vegan snacks with free Wi-Fi for community members to visit and work at during the day
“This center will usher in a new era of how animals are sheltered in our country, because it’s a new type of animal shelter that’s as much for people as it is for pets,” Best Friends Animal Society CEO Julia Castle shared in the release. “It puts the focus on building relationships between the two.”
Much of the services developed at the facility were fashioned for pet-loving folks who lack access to the resources they need to care for their animals.
This will hopefully keep beloved pets in loving homes, while bolstering the support people need to care for their animals.
“Whether it’s helping someone find an adoptable pet in a beautiful, modern environment, supporting people with pets who need help by connecting them with resources and social services, or involving community members in programs that save more pets in Arkansas and nationwide,” Castle continues. “it’s designed as a community destination with something for everyone who loves animals.”
The new shelter recently had its soft opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony and will be fully open by April 8 of this year. Adoption fees for 2023 will be waived as part of the celebration.
Community member Greg Vogel attended the soft opening event.
“It brings a lot of opportunity for some great animals who just didn’t really have a chance, so it’s good to have this right here in town,” Vogel told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “It’s really going to brighten the lives of a lot of animals, and the community, too.”
Why is this good news?
While its many initiatives fill animal welfare gaps in Northwest Arkansas and beyond, the main intent of the Pet Resource Center is to reach Best Friends’ goal of making the state of Arkansas — and the entire country — no-kill by 2025.
This goal may not be out of reach, either. According to a report from the organization, the percentage of U.S. shelters that are no-kill doubled in just six years, from 24% in 2016, to 52% in 2021.
“More than half of all shelters in America are now no-kill, but to get them all to that place, it will take the support of people in local communities,” the Best Friends Animal Society press release reads.
“This center represents the new model of how a community and shelter are intertwined for pet life-saving.”
By developing a contemporary space, filled with playful installations from local artists, a coffee shop to hang out with adoptable animals, DIY bathing and dog socialization activities for community members — and even a slide from one floor to another — the Pet Resource Center acts as an engaging playground that confronts a serious mission with the inherent joy of being in the company of animals.
Header photo by tbmerritt, courtesy of Best Friends Animal Society