Ahimsa House -- Breaking the Cycle of Abuse for Animals

 |  May 22nd 2007  |   1 Contribution


EmilyChristie.jpg

What a wonderful idea and organization! Ahimsa House is an organization that protests animals caught in domestic violence situations. How many times have we heard about dogs or cats killed by raging spouses trying to afflict some damage to their abused and hiding spouses?

Thanks to Rebecca King for barking in this good news.

The following message was sent by "Rebecca King"

I am writing to tell you about, and hope that you may post a link to, Ahimsa House. I am not involved with their organization other than the fact that I donate to it...I do that because for me it's a personal thing and when I read about them in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution I knew I had found "my" charity, per se. If only they had been around 20 years ago when I could have used them.


All that aside, they are a wonderful organization even if they are only based here in Georgia at the moment and not national (yet). Please review their website at www.ahimsahouse.org to learn about their wonderful rescue program and to consider them for listing on Dogster.com.

Thank you,

Rebecca King (a new fan whose mother-in-law referred me to your site)

Here's how Ahimsa House describes itself on its home page:

Ahimsa House, Inc. is a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation that provides shelter and aid to animals caught in the cycle of domestic violence. Ahimsa House is the first and only shelter in Georgia dedicated solely to this purpose. Ahimsa House is also a National Award Winning Organization.

Here is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article Rebecca referred to:

Pets, too, can be victims of domestic violence
Money problems end shelter for abused women's animals

By SANDRA ECKSTEIN
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 10/29/06

Emily Christie knows what it's like to lose a pet because of domestic violence.

At age 18, she endured six months of abuse before fleeing with her cat. But she couldn't care for her beloved pet, Luna, so she was forced to leave her with someone she hardly knew.

The woman who owned these kittens was not able to reclaim them, so Ahimsa House sent them to a rescue group.

She never saw Luna again.

More than a decade later, that experience led Christie to open a shelter to care for the pets of women who must move into domestic violence shelters. Studies have shown that up to 80 percent of women entering domestic violence shelters report that their pets were threatened, injured or killed by their batterers. In one study, 57 percent of women entering shelters reported having had a pet killed by their abuser.

"Many times a batterer uses a pet to intimidate or control the woman," Christie said. "And the women know that if they leave their pet, it would be hurt or killed. I've had so many women tell me they wouldn't leave without their pets."

Christie opened the Ahimsa House pet shelter in June 2004, the only shelter of its kind in Georgia and one of just a few in the country. Since the shelter's opening, she and a dedicated group of volunteers and veterinarians have sheltered about 155 pets while their owners worked through their crises.

But in August the money ran out. Now the group is having to turn women away.

"We just ran into pets with some really expensive medical bills," said Christie, who gave every animal brought into the program any medical care it needed, from shots and spaying or neutering to operations for broken bones or chronic conditions. "Half our budget last year went to vet bills, mostly for emergency care."

Christie said they've had animals with horrible infections from untreated wounds, broken bones from abuse, and pets who had simply never been taken to a vet. Other animals came in so traumatized that they cowered or hid in fear if anyone walked or talked near them.

Those who work with domestic violence victims say facilities like Ahimsa House (ahimsa means to avoid violence or injury) are desperately needed.

"Research shows one in four battered women said they stayed in the home because they feared their family pet would be tortured or killed," said Cathy Willis Spraetz, CEO of the Partnership Against Domestic Violence, which has two women's shelters in metro Atlanta. Spraetz said the Ahimsa House was a great resource that is now missed.

Marina Barron, who runs the No One Alone domestic violence shelter in Dahlonega, said they've seen similar cases. "We've referred about a dozen clients to Ahimsa House last year," Barron said. "It's a desperately needed facility."

Nationally, law enforcement is starting to recognize the connection between the abuse of people and animals. In March, Maine enacted legislation allowing animals to be included in domestic violence protection orders. In Columbus, Ohio, the City Council approved a program last year that places the pets of domestic violence victims in a women's prison, where inmates care for them.

Christie said the average shelter stay for pets was about 65 days. Just over half the pets were able to return to their owners, and those that couldn't were placed with no-kill rescue groups, she said.

Ahimsa House received several grants and was even named Rescue Organization of the Year in 2005 by Pedigree, which makes pet food and other products. But because it relied almost entirely on donations from the public, it just didn't take in enough money, Christie said.

Dr. Kelly Trogdon, owner of Faithful Friend Mobile Veterinary Clinic, has been on the group's board of directors since it opened. She said it was the pent-up need that overwhelmed the shelter.

"We got calls from all over the state, and when she [Christie] didn't have room at the shelter, she'd pay to board them," Trogdon said. "She'd never say no."

Merrie Rennard, a social worker with the Gwinnett Sexual Assault Center & Children's Advocacy Center, was elected president of the shelter's board Oct. 2. She said they've lost the lease on the current shelter and have only a couple of foster homes that will take in pets.

"We want to open again, but we need at least two years' operating budget so we're not opening and closing again," Rennard said. "We need at least $100,000 to get started again, and a new shelter location."

Follow this link to read the rest of the article.

If you want to read more about Ahimsa House, here's a link to their media page.

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