What we do
- Ahimsa House, which is pronounced "uh-HIM-sah" and means "nonviolence" in Sanskrit, was founded in 2004 by Emily Christie after she lost a pet to domestic violence. Ahimsa House became Georgia's first and only organization dedicated to helping the human and animal victims of domestic violence reach safety together.
- Originally, Ahimsa House maintained a central shelter for animals at a secret location in metro Atlanta. In Fall 2006, we recognized the need to change our program model in an effort to operate more cost-effectively and to better serve victims statewide (see How We Help, below). In March 2007, Ahimsa House launched our redesigned direct services program, which houses animals via a network of foster homes and boarding facilities across the state.
- To date (September 2013), Ahimsa House has provided over 32,000 nights of safe, confidential shelter for pets in need. In 2012, we took in 85% more animals than in 2011, and requests for our services went up by 70%. Over the past three years, calls to our 24-hour crisis line have more than tripled.
- Ahimsa House holds an animal shelter license from the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
- We are a member agency of the Georgia Coalition Against Domestic Violence and the Gwinnett, Cobb, Dekalb, and Fulton County Family Violence Task Forces. We are certified as a victim service provider agency by Georgia's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council.
- Ahimsa House was named "Rescue Organization of the Year" by Pedigree in 2005.
- Our 2013 operating budget is approximately $195,000. It costs us approximately $130 to care for one pet, though most cases involve more than one pet. Often, our cost is much higher when victims have multiple animals, when we receive exotic or unusual species such as horses, and/or when animals require extensive veterinary treatment due to injury or neglect. We have only three staff members; everyone else is a volunteer.
- Ahimsa House receives no government funding. We rely entirely on individual donations, grants, and corporate sponsorships. We are run almost entirely on volunteer labor and receive many in-kind donations of goods and services, making us highly cost-effective.
- Domestic violence can occur anywhere; it crosses all races, all cultures and all socioeconomic backgrounds. In 2004, Georgia had 107 confirmed homicides resulting from domestic violence. Georgia ranks 10th in the nation for its rate of men killing women, and 1st in the nation for teen dating violence.
- Most U.S. households have pets, and pets are often considered part of the family. Recognizing the bonds between victims and their pets, many batterers threaten, harm, and even kill pets in the home in order to control, intimidate, and retaliate against their victims.
- Up to 71% of victims entering domestic violence shelters report that their abusers threatened, injured, or killed the family pets. Research indicates that pet abuse may be a red flag for increased severity of domestic violence and more controlling behavior by the abuser.
- According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence's directory of domestic violence programs, fewer than 1 in 8 domestic violence shelters is able to accommodate victims' pets.
- Abusers often threaten to harm pets if a victim flees. Threats toward a pet have also been used as effective ways to silence children from reporting sexual abuse.
- As many as half of all victims of domestic violence entering shelters report that they delayed seeking safety from an abusive situation because of concerns about what would happen to their pets.
- Victims who leave pets behind have been known to leave domestic violence shelters and return to the residence in order to attempt to reclaim or care for the pets.
- In addition to these safety risks to both humans and animals, witnessing pet abuse is traumatic to both children and adults. In a violent situation, a loving bond with a pet may serve as a vital source of support. Being forced to leave pets behind when fleeing abuse, especially with the knowledge that they may face further harm from the abuser, serves as an additional stressor at what is already a time of crisis.
- Children who witness pet abuse may go on to engage in animal cruelty themselves. In addition, animal cruelty in childhood is a risk factor for interpersonal violence.
- Ahimsa House services are available anywhere in Georgia and all services are completely free of charge.
Our Direct Services Program offers:
- Emergency shelter for animals of any kind in confidential foster homes or boarding facilities while their owners reach safety from domestic violence
- Veterinary care for pets with injuries and other health conditions due to the abuse, as well as preventive veterinary care and spay/neuter for animals staying in our emergency shelter program
- Forensic veterinary examinations to document abuse and assist in prosecuting abusers
- Assistance in transporting pets to accompany their owners to safety (both within GA and across the country)
- Pet food, pet supplies, payment of pet deposits in transitional housing, and other assistance victims may need in order to move forward with their lives together with their pets after reaching safety
- Folding crates and other pet supplies for domestic violence shelters, including shelters that have their own on-site housing for pets
- A 24-hour statewide crisis line offering crisis intervention and guidance to victims and their representatives concerned about pets in domestic violence
- Assistance in including pets in safety planning
- Legal advocacy to assist victims in listing their pets on temporary protective orders and in establishing proof of ownership of their pets
Our Outreach Services Program includes:
- Training and cross-training for a wide range of human services and animal protection agencies on the links between animal abuse and domestic violence
- Consultation to prosecutors on cases involving co-occurring animal cruelty and domestic violence, including expert witness services
- Consultation to individuals/agencies interested in developing programs of this type elsewhere
- An email listserv for programs of this type nationwide/worldwide to discuss best practices and coordinate referrals across service areas
- A directory of programs of this type elsewhere
- Direct outreach to the public to raise awareness about this issue, including speaking at meetings of civic organizations, setting up information booths at community festivals and workplace health fairs, and placing information brochures and posters in veterinary clinics and other strategic locations across the state
- Participating in interdisciplinary conferences and meetings, such as Domestic Violence Task Forces, to keep the issue of animal abuse in domestic violence “at the table"