BENTONVILLE -- A light rain didn't discourage a huge crowd that showed up Saturday for the opening of the Best Friends Pet Resource Center.
The center at 1312 Melissa Drive in Bentonville, adjacent to Founders Classical Academy, is 20,000 square feet on 6 acres owned by Best Friends Animal Society. The national animal welfare organization, based in Utah, is focused on ending the killing of pets in America's shelters by 2025.
"Bentonville's community-centric mentality made it the ideal location for the first-of-its-kind Best Friends Pet Resource Center," said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. "This space is just as much for people as it is for animals thanks to the resources, support and community it will give Northwest Arkansas residents.
"The Pet Resource Center is a modern space with something for everyone -- resources and educational tools; rehabilitation and veterinary services; pet housing and lifesaving; as well as hangout areas and even a coffee shop. We're excited to welcome the Northwest Arkansas community in to start fostering change together and continue onward toward our goal of achieving no-kill by 2025."
Adoption fees for 2023 will be waived as part of the celebration, officials announced Saturday.
Greg Vogel was one of the attendees Saturday. He helps foster animals for Best Friends.
"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," he said of the facility. "It's really going to brighten the lives of a lot of animals and the community, too."
The goal for the capital campaign was $19.8 million, including building costs, land donation and $2 million for operations. That goal was reached, said Jackie Roach, executive director.
"I've always thought of Northwest Arkansas as an incubator of new concepts and ideas that push boundaries and inspire creative innovation, which are all ways the Best Friends Pet Resource Center is creating a new form of animal sheltering," Roach said. "Living in this community, I've witnessed firsthand the compassion of Northwest Arkansas' residents. This community truly loves animals, and it's clear they will fully embrace not only the new pet resource center, but our mission to save them all."
The Best Friends Pet Resource Center isn't the only option in town for pet services. The city-owned Animal Services and Adoption Center is in the middle of a soft opening that started last month. A grand opening is set for April 8.
The 6,500-square-foot city facility is on a triangle-shaped property at the intersection of Southwest I and Southwest 41st streets, across I Street from the Community Center. It can hold 15 dogs and 20 to 30 cats, said Ali O'Neill, animal services manager.
More than 300 people attended a VIP ribbon cutting and tour of the Best Friends center Thursday night.
The Best Friends Pet Resource Center is more than just a place to adopt a pet. It offers resources and services for people and pets and breaks the mold of antiquated facilities that have previously been the norm, according to a Best Friends news release. Designed without cages and kennels, the center is a community destination that connects people with adoptable pets and offers support for families to keep pets in homes. The center represents the new model of how a community and shelter are intertwined for pet life-saving, according to the release.
The new center, which will fill critical gaps for local service in Northwest Arkansas, is the largest facility for animals in the region and will serve an estimated 13,000 dogs and cats each year, according to the release.
Amenities include pet housing, hangout areas, a veterinary clinic, lifesaving, transport, rehabilitation and education, according to Best Friends.
The center also is a place to pay tribute to beloved pets with sculptures that are displayed around the center and grounds. One pet is Ol' Roy, Sam Walton's tri-colored setter. There are 16 pet installations at the center, according to officials.
The Walton Family Foundation provided an $892,500 grant for the architectural design and engineering of the center.