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Evelyn Andrews Posted by on April 19, 2017.

Buckhead law firm helps shelter domestic violence victims’ pets

A Buckhead law firm has committed to helping for a year a nonprofit that protects and temporarily houses domestic violence victims’ pets.

Morris, Manning & Martin has contributed $30,000 to Ahimsa House, provides legal help to the nonprofit and will host a fundraiser to benefit the organization in September.

One of the pets sheltered by Ahimsa House in the past year. (Special)

“They have been amazing,” Myra Rasnik, the executive director of Ahimsa House, said of the law firm.

Most domestic violence shelters, fewer than 1 in 8 nationwide, Ahimsa House says, allow pets, so many victims are forced to delay seeking help or risk their abuser harming their pet. Sixty percent of victims delay seeking help because they are afraid their pet may be hurt by their abuser and 71 percent say that their abuser threatened, harmed or killed their pet, Rasnik said.

“We remove that barrier so that they can get help,” Rasnik said.

Ahimsa House — which says its name means “non-violence” in Sanskrit — last year assisted 137 victims of domestic violence and sheltered 255 pets, which they do through a network of veterinarians, foster homes and animal shelters that temporarily care for the pets before being reunited with their owners. Another way the law firm is assisting is by creating its own network of foster homes, Rasnik said. Morris, Manning & Martin lawyers will soon be sheltering abuse victims’ pets.

The nonprofit mostly shelters dogs and cats, but has also sheltered birds, snakes, rabbits, turtles, iguanas, guinea pigs, hamsters, ferrets, rats and horses, according to the nonprofit’s website.

Ahimsa House has several layers of anonymity, Rasnik said, as representatives of the nonprofit have had abusers try to find animals to harm them as a way of retribution against an abuse victim seeking help.

People who need help can reach Ahimsa House through a 24-hour crisis line at 404-452-6248. Although the organization is based in Atlanta, it is able to assist anywhere in Georgia.

The law firm commits annually to helping a local nonprofit for one year with fundraising and legal help. The firm chose Ahimsa House this year because it brings in a component “close to a lot of employee’s hearts,” said Seslee Smith, a partner at the firm, referring to pets.

“The focus of the law firm’s charitable partnerships have always been on a local charity that benefits the metro area, especially women, children or veterans,” said Smith, who is also on the board of the nonprofit.

The nonprofit also brings together two important causes for Smith — helping women and pets — and she said she understands why women sometimes delay seeking help out of fear for their pets.

“If I were in that situation, I would never be able to leave my pet behind,” she said.

For more information about Ahimsa House, see ahimsahouse.org.