New Arkansas Shelter Takes “Free-Range Approach” to Animal Housing

What’s being hailed as a first-of-its-kind animal shelter just opened its doors in Bentonville, Arkansas. On March 11, the new Best Friends Pet Resource Center welcomed community members with a soft spot for animals inside to check out their new “free-range” facility where pets can roam about with one another and interact freely.

Best Friends Animal Society
Photo: tbmerritt via Best Friends Animal Society

A far cry from traditional animal shelters filled with noisy kennels and cramped cat enclosures, all of the pets available for adoption through the center are housed by foster caregivers at night, who then return them each morning in hopes that someone will stop by and adopt them.

Susan Cosby, the senior adviser of strategy and integration at Best Friends Animal Society, related to Fox News Digital that she believes the new facility will disrupt the sheltering industry.

girls with dog
Photo: RussellBloodworth via Best Friends Animal Society

“Right here in northwest Arkansas, we’re actually creating the future of animal sheltering that we hope is going to be a model for our nation,” she stated.

“Animal sheltering for the past 150 years has been really dependent on cages and kennels, bringing animals into an institutional system that wasn’t really designed to be overly friendly to the public,” Cosby continued.

Photo: tbmerritt via Best Friends Animal Society

She believes that the traditional animal-shelter model “misses the mark” when it comes to human/animal interaction. She went on to say that the new center serves “both ends of the leash” and that it allows visitors to enjoy the amenities offered there, like artwork by local Arkansas artists, comfortable lounge spaces, free WiFi, a coffee shop, and an indoor slide for people of all ages.

“It’s really hard to have your heart break walking into this facility,” Cosby explained. “It’s bright, it’s airy … [Imagine] your favorite coffee shop that was also an animal shelter.”

cat playing with wand
Photo: SeanTSmith via Best Friends Animal Society

Besides the chance to learn about how members of the community can help animals in their area, they also have opportunities for people who want to help, as well as services for people who need help.
With more than 20 years of animal shelter experience, Cosby said she’s spent plenty of time managing animals in cages, and that “It is not a healthy environment for them to stay happy. They develop behavior problems over time. And when we think about how animals are such social beings — they want to be with people. They want to be together.”

Best Friends Animal Society
Photo: tbmerritt via Best Friends Animal Society

The new center includes two rooms dedicated to felines designed to incorporate features of the Arkansas landscape.

“Those cat rooms are really for the safety of the cats so that they don’t run out the doors,” she noted, “but they have the freedom to walk around and hang out.”

The center will reportedly be available to other rescues and shelters seeking spaces for adoption events. “We’re inviting everybody down to be a part of this, to really connect animals with people,” she said.

Best Friends Animal Society
Photo: tbmerritt via Best Friends Animal Society

She feels Best Friends has sparked a movement within the sheltering industry by making animal shelters more desirable destinations.

The Arkansas shelter opening is said to be part of Best Friends’ overall goal of ending euthanasia in U.S. shelters by 2025.

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