Lost and missing cats and dogs in Denison may soon have a new place to stay on their search for a forever home.

The Denison City Council unanimously approved a zoning request Monday night that will allow the Denison Animal Welfare Group to build a new animal shelter that will better fit the city’s needs.

“We know from our planning and research that securing the right location is the most crucial step in the shelter planning process,” DAWG President Stephanie Phillips said Monday. “Today we did that, and although there is a mountain to climb, we are incredibly optimistic that our investment in the future of the city of Denison will be supported by its citizens and the council.”

In March, the group requested a zoning change from the Planning and Zoning Commission for a 5.8 acres located at 2212 W. Morton Street that would allow DAWG to build a new 12,000-square-foot shelter. The request was ultimately forwarded to the council for final approval with a nod from the commission.

The proposed shelter lot sits away from Morton Street and is currently used as a practice baseball field, surrounded by a mixture of retail and commercial properties. DAWG also purchased an adjacent, vacant lot along the roadway to provide access. The frontage property will remain commercially zoned and could be used for future retail uses, officials said.

The need for a new shelter comes as the organization has seen an increasing inflow of animals into its shelter since it formed about five years ago. Phillips said DAWG sees nearly 1,500 animals a year, with 109 entering the group’s facility in February alone.

The organization has utilized the former Southside Fire Station as its headquarters since 2015. The building became the organization’s home on Father’s Day 2015 when the city’s pound at the Morton Street Animal Hospital flooded amid heavy rains that spring. The animals at the shelter were evacuated to the decommissioned fire house, which has since served as an improvised shelter.

While the building has served the organization well over the years, and has been renovated to better fit its needs, organizers said the building was never designed to be a shelter. With only 20 kennels, organizers said DAWG now requires a dedicated facility to meet the needs of the city’s animal population.

With the high inflow, Phillips said the organization has started transporting animals to other shelters with higher adoption rates across the country. While the new shelter will not fully alleviate this problem, it will provide high capacity, she said.

Phillips said the proposed facility would take up nearly half of the lot with the remaining parcel being used for outdoor and walking space for the animals. The shelter itself will feature 40 kennels with additional room for an educational space, and other facilities.

DAWG officials noted it could be some time before the group is ready to build the facility. Phillips said the facility could cost as much as $5 million to build, and the organization is currently fundraising for the project, which could still be five years out.

City officials previously said Denison is willing to support the project, but noted no definitive plans have been made as the project is still years away.

The council unanimously approved the request with light discussion. City Manager Jud Rex said the city received no comments from the public on the proposed shelter, and city staff were in approval of the request.

“I think overall the land use is right for that property and it is a good use to the community,” he said.

Do you feel this property is a good fit for an animal shelter? Let Michael Hutchins, the Herald Democrat’s Denison-area reporter know at mhutchins@heralddemocrat.com or @mhutchinsHD on Twitter.