Best Friends Partners with The Walton Family Foundation to Launch a New Era of Animal Sheltering

By Julie Castle

I am delighted to announce a unique partnership between Best Friends and the Walton Family Foundation to create the Best Friends Pet Resource Center in Bentonville, Arkansas. There are celebrated benchmarks over the course of the history of the no-kill movement and this will be one of them.

Best Friends and the no-kill movement have been driving change in animal welfare and animal sheltering for more than 35 years, with innovative lifesaving programs and sheltering protocols aimed at ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters. 

Now, thanks to the foresight and compassion of the decision-makers at the Walton Family Foundation, coupled with Best Friends’ experience and know-how, we stand at the threshold of a new era of innovation that will transform the entire concept of what an animal shelter is.

The animal shelter will be transformed from a stressful holding facility that had its roots in the urban rabies scares of 150 years ago to a truly community-oriented pet resource center designed from its conception to reflect the actual value of pets as beloved family members in the community.

Make no mistake: This will be the first, but certainly not the last, of a new breed of shelter operation and a model for the entire country. The Best Friends Pet Resource Center will be a community center that provides service and support for pets and their families over the course of their entire lives together, not just after they have run into difficulties or when they need to find a new home. It is being designed from scratch with its new functions and intended outcomes in mind.

It is only fitting that this bold new idea should bloom in America’s heartland through the engagement and generosity of one of America’s most prominent families. 

For those of you who don’t know, Best Friends has been working on the ground in northwest Arkansas for three years, leading the Northwest Arkansas Partnership for Animal Welfare (NWA PAW) coalition. The group comprises 25 animal welfare agencies with a mission to build and sustain no-kill communities in northwest Arkansas, and the Best Friends Pet Resource Center will serve all of northwest Arkansas.

The resource center will offer programs to existing local and regional animal services and traditional as well as non-traditional sheltering services, such as lifesaving services (e.g., a community cat program, kitten care center, transport program), resources for pet ownership retention, rehabilitation, and training and education. 

We are deeply grateful to the Walton Family Foundation for their generous grant toward the design and engineering of the facility. Projected to open in fall of 2021, the center will be an estimated 20,000 square feet and will be near a newly announced park on Bentonville’s 8th Street corridor, an area that will be a gateway to surrounding urban and natural amenities.

Our shared vision is for this center to become a model for communities nationwide. I have no doubt that the Best Friends Pet Resource Center will have a tremendously positive impact on the future of animal sheltering in this country. 

Stay tuned for updates on this truly exciting project. No-kill nationwide by 2025, here we come!

Together, we can Save Them All.

Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society