Source: Fox News (Extract)
Posted: March 15, 2023

Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville, Arkansas, is changing 150 years of animal sheltering.

Shelter pets are officially cage-free at the new Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville, Arkansas.

Best Friends Animal Society opened the doors of the first-of-its-kind facility on Saturday, March 11, welcoming community members and animal lovers inside to check out the new pet digs.

Unlike traditional animal shelters filled with cages and kennels, this new center in Arkansas takes a free-range approach, allowing its dogs and cats to inhabit rooms within the shelter.

Every pet up for adoption through the facility is matched up with a local foster family who takes them in each night and returns them to the center during the day.

That way, the animals are available for adoption events and opportunities.

Susan Cosby, senior adviser of strategy and integration at Best Friends Animal Society, told Fox News Digital she believes the facility will cause a disruption in the sheltering industry.

“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 said in an interview.

“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,” she also said.

The traditional animal shelter model “misses the mark” when it comes to how humans interact with animals both as companions and family members, said Cosby, who is based in Kanab, Utah.

The new center serves “both ends of the leash,” she said. It allows visitors to enjoy the space’s amenities — including an indoor slide for humans — while learning about how they can help animals in their community.

The facility features artwork by local Northwest Arkansas artists, comfortable lounge spaces, free WiFi and a coffee shop fueled by local roaster Third Space Coffee.

“It’s really hard to have your heart break walking into this facility,” she said.

“It’s bright, it’s airy … [Imagine] your favorite coffee shop that was also an animal shelter.”

She added, “We have opportunities for people who want to help, as well as services for people who need help.”

It was a “challenge” for the Best Friends team to “do something truly different,” ultimately leading to the center’s cage-less model.

With over 20 years of experience in working in animal shelters, Cosby said she’s spent plenty of time managing animals kept in cages.

“It is not a healthy environment for them to stay happy,” she said. “They develop behavior problems over time.”

She continued, “And when we think about how animals are such social beings — they want to be with people. They want to be together.”

The facility has separate rooms where the adoptable pets are free-range, including two cat rooms designed to incorporate features of the Arkansas landscape, said Cosby.

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

The center will also be available to other rescues and municipal shelters that are seeking adoption event space.

“We’re inviting everybody down to be a part of this, to really connect animals with people,” she said.

Best Friends has sparked a movement within the sheltering industry by making animal shelters desirable destinations, she noted.

The Arkansas shelter opening is part of Best Friends’ greater goal to end the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters by 2025.

Northwest Arkansas was an ideal location for the groundbreaking shelter, according to Cosby, since the region has “many philanthropic partners” who “challenged” Best Friends to push the innovative envelope.

There were community members who “identified a need” in order to be able to really help animals, she said.

“This community is very proud and very passionate about Bentonville and Northwest Arkansas being the best place to live and work — and having services for animals just makes sense.”

Cosby encouraged those within the community and across the country to get involved with Best Friends Animal Society by adopting or fostering a pet.

Interested parties can learn more at