Plans call for expansion of animal shelter

Pine Bluff Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Thursday that she is “pleased” with plans for an expanded city animal shelter in Martin Luther King Park, and “happy” that the facility will remain at its current location.

She also expressed pride in a partnership she’s established with the local chapter of the Humane Society, which will be represented at the renovated shelter.

“We have to be the voice for our precious pets,” said Hollingsworth, who owns a dog. “I think what we have in mind for the animal shelter will be well-received by everyone. The early responses have all been totally positive.”

The mayor said the initial plans — formulated under former mayor Carl A. Redus Jr. — called for relocating the facility, but she felt the park location gave the shelter its best potential.

“I thought a doggie park and walking area would be a wonderful addition to the shelter area,” she said. “It would provide a great spot for an exercise and play outing for dog owners and their dogs, and an opportunity for the owners to socialize, all in a safe setting.”

Hollingsworth said that after officials determined there was available space for the proposed addition, she contacted the Arkansas State Department of Parks and Tourism — which has oversight of local parks that have received state grant monies — and the agency approved the notion.

“We’re currently in a designing phase as far as the shelter’s new office is concerned,” said the mayor. “I think it’s fabulous that the Humane Society will be working with us. They’ll help us to ensure adoption of our stray dogs and cats. With their help, we’ll be networking with other shelters and Humane Society groups across the country.”

The price tag for the animal shelter project is $1,378,200. The city council will consider the funding in a resolution to be presented at the panel’s regular session Monday night. The council’s Public Works Committee recently endorsed the appropriation.

The shelter improvement was among promised items in the Penny for Progress tax approved by voters in 2011.