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Groundbreaking set for pet resource center in Bentonville

by Mike Jones | May 24, 2021 at 1:00 a.m.
Director of Animal Services Cody Wilson hugs Manchas, a black lab and pitbull mix, who came from Bentonville, Thursday, April 15, 2021 at the Centerton Animal Shelter in Centerton. The city of Bentonville could start construction on a city animal resource center this summer. The city has a contract with Centerton to bring stray dogs to the shelter there. Check out for today's photo gallery. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

BENTONVILLE -- The city doesn't have a animal shelter, but plans are well underway for two such facilities in the future.

Mercedes Brink of Bentonville, who adopted two stray cats she found at her apartment complex, said she's amazed two shelters are in the works, "but I am sure the need is there." Brink said she knew the surrounding communities had shelters and Bentonville didn't.

"And that surprised me," she said.

A groundbreaking for the Best Friends Animal Society's shelter will be at 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to an event invitation.

The Kanab, Utah-based organization announced a regional pet resource center in December 2019. Plans for the center received unanimous approval from the Planning Commission in January.

"We're looking forward to kicking off construction on the Best Friends Pet Resource Center," said Jackie Roach, senior manager of Northwest Arkansas lifesaving programs for the animal society. "It will be very different from what people think of when they think of a traditional animal shelter. It will truly support pet owners and enhance their relationship with their pets.

"Though we are located in Bentonville, this center is for all pets and people of Northwest Arkansas. I think it will be a source of pride for our area that will elevate animal welfare, not only in the region, but also the country."

The Walton Family Foundation provided an $892,500 grant for architectural design and engineering of the center, according to a news release.

The center will offer complementary programs to local and regional animal service organizations and to traditional and nontraditional sheltering services, according to the release.

Plans show an approximately 12,000-square-foot building at 1312 Melissa Drive. The site is a little more than 6 acres near the 8th Street Gateway Park.

Best Friends Animal Society has a network of corporate and foundation partners, according to its website.

The society's adoption fees are $40 for cats and $100 for dogs. More details on specific programming and fees will be announced closer to when the Bentonville center opens, said Hannah Stember, Best Friends public relations manager.

Philanthropic support from foundations, corporate partners and donors will fund the center's development and at least one year of operating costs. Specifics about funding will be released at the groundbreaking, Stember said.

Best Friends has been working on the ground in Northwest Arkansas for several years and leads the NWA PAW coalition made up of 36 partner organizations, according to a news release.

The plan is for the pet resource center to be open in summer 2022, Roach said.

The city's Pet Resource and Services Steering Committee spent more than a year working on plans for a shelter and proposed in 2019 Best Friends operate it. Best Friends partners with cities to run animal shelters.

The tentative plan was for the Walton Family Foundation, Best Friends, the city and public fundraising to pay to build an $8 million to $10 million building, although no entity committed any money.

The City Council in April 2019 voted to support a public-private model for the shelter, but Mayor Stephanie Orman said at a July meeting she didn't want to partner with a private entity. The Arkansas Municipal League advised her against doing so, she said, citing lawsuits involving dog bites.

The city also has announced plans for its own animal facility.

Construction is expected to start this summer on an animal services shelter, billed as a one-stop shop for all pet-related needs, said David Wright, Parks and Recreation Department director. Residents will be able to adopt a pet, register a pet, get information on responsible pet ownership and volunteer, according to the website.

Wright said he wants to have a bid award request before the City Council in June, and he expects construction to take about nine months.

The site is a triangle-shaped piece of property at the intersection of Southwest I and Southwest 41st streets, Wright said.

Plans call for a 6,500-square-foot building. Construction cost is estimated between $2.7 million and $3.1 million, he said. The money will come from the city's general fund.

The city pays $7,000 per month to Centerton for animal services and $100 for each dog taken to the Centerton shelter. Centerton's City Council recently approved an 18-month extension to the contract.

If the Bentonville shelter is completed before the conclusion of the contract, the city must give Centerton 60 days' notice to terminate the agreement, according to the contract.

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Web watch

The Bentonville Planning Commission on Jan. 19 approved the large-scale development plans for the Best Friends Animal Society’s shelter on Mellisa Drive. To see the planning documents related to the project, visit:


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