BENTON, Ark. (KTHV) - City leaders believe a new home for Benton’s animal shelter will help it place more pets in forever homes.

The Benton City Council approved a purchase Monday night for a piece of property where the city can build a new animal control facility.

“Many, many years ago, this animal shelter here in Benton was not thought of very highly,” Mayor David Mattingly explained. “We’ve worked very hard to change that image.”

The new shelter will be built on property a short distance from the current building, near the corner of S. Market and Willow streets, but on a more visible plot than where it stands now. “It has to be somewhere where it can be recognized as having some value,” Mattingly stated. “You drive down Market Street now, unless you see the sign, you don’t even know where it is.”

Monday afternoon, there were no clients at the shelter, but there was plenty of activity. Staff members loaded thirty dogs into a van bound for a shelter in Minnesota that can help them get adopted. “If you don’t have the capacity to take care of the demand,” Mattingly explained, “you have to find ways—humane ways, hopefully—to offload those animals.”

Terry Parsons, Benton’s manager of animal control services, said he has transported dogs as far as California and Connecticut in order to place them in homes. He said one dog has been in his care for 101 days, and he keeps them as long as it takes to adopt them. But Mattingly realizes he faces an uphill battle. “You’re talking about a 30-year-old facility, and you’re talking about a community that’s grown by 44 percent in the last 12 years,” he mentioned.

But Benton’s animal shelter can’t grow with the city. “It’s located in a, almost call it a flood plain area,” Mattingly said, “which means we cannot expand.”

Benton will pay up to $100,000 to Habitat for Humanity of Saline County for the property. A local family donated it to the organization, but Stephanie Brogdon, its executive director, said it could not use the land. She knew the city was looking for a new location for the shelter, and with the donors’ permission, negotiated with Mattingly.

“They wanted to do something that would create some revenue, and we were there, needing the piece of land. And we got together on it and it was a great match, and it all worked out,” Mattingly said.

Mattingly, Parsons, and an architecture firm have started discussing designs for the new building, which could be announced in the next month or two. “And the future design is going to have all the things in it that really needs to be,” Mattingly said, “the drive-through shot clinics, and all the other services that are now common in those facilities that are being built in the last year or two.”

The city council will need to allocate funding for construction, which Mattingly estimated might begin in spring of 2018.