Mar 27, 2023 - News

Bentonville goes from zero to two animal shelters

A mom and her kittens are waiting to be adopted at the Bentonville Animal Services Center. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

After years with no nearby place to go, stray cats and dogs have two new temporary homes in Bentonville.

Driving the news: Until this year, the city was without an animal shelter. Now, it's got both a city-run shelter and a separate pet resource center run by Utah-based nonprofit Best Friends Animal Society that serves the region.

  • Previously the city's animal control officers took about 250 stray dogs per year found in city limits to the Centerton animal shelter and left it to community organizations to take in cats, Animal Services Director Ali O'Neill told Axios.
  • The city paid $7,000 per month to Centerton for animal services and $100 for each dog taken to the Centerton shelter, the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Background: Roughly five years ago, the city considered working with Best Friends to build an animal shelter, but ultimately decided to stick with a city-operated facility. Best Friends moved forward with operating its first Arkansas location in Bentonville, anyway.

Details: The Bentonville shelter, located off Southwest I Street across from the community center, seeks to reunite suspected lost pets with their owners. Animals that go unclaimed at the shelter more than a week go up for adoption, O'Neill said.

  • There's room for 15 dogs and about the same number of cats.
  • The shelter contracts with a local veterinarian to offer vaccinations, microchip and spay/neuter services, and to treat sick animals. It's also working on a program for stray cats to be neutered or spayed.
  • People looking to adopt can spend time with the animals or temporarily foster before deciding to take one in permanently.
One of the cat rooms at the Best Friends Pet Resource Center — the cats can go out on the enclosed patio at their leisure. Photo: Alex Golden/Axios

The intrigue: Best Friends seeks to be the "future of animal shelters," Linda DeBerry, spokesperson for Best Friends NWA, told Axios.

  • The center is focused on getting the community involved. The building includes a café and is open to the public to visit and play with the cats and dogs or take part in drop-in volunteer activities such as making treats or tying pet blankets.
  • All of the dogs have volunteer foster families and stay with them at night until they're adopted.
  • Part of Best Friends' mission is for the country to be entirely "no-kill" — meaning animals are only euthanized when they're severely ill without hope for recovery or especially dangerous — not for lack of shelter space. Animals are commonly killed in many shelters because they're overcrowded, DeBerry said.
  • To that end, the organization seeks to prevent pet owners from giving up their animals — and thus avoid crowding in shelters — by offering services such as free vaccinations and microchipping, free pet food for those who can't afford it and a resource center for pet-related problems or questions. The center has vets on staff and plans to eventually offer free spay and neuter services to low-income individuals.

Of note: The city shelter is also no-kill by that definition.

How it works: Best Friends NWA picks up cats and dogs from overcrowded shelters across the state and puts them up for adoption.

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