October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month and CBS46 is advocating for victims and their families, which includes pets.

40 percent of abuse survivors say they've delayed leaving an abuser for fear of their pets safety.

CBS46 visited the only shelter in Georgia dedicated to helping abuse victims with pets find safety.

Jamie Bullock fell hard and fast for her fiancé and shortly after they got together so did their relationship.

“The screaming. The fighting. Doors and dry wall being kicked in. Punched in,” said Bullock. “I needed to take my daughter to the hospital one time, he ripped the car battery out so that I couldn't leave.”

Bullock was determined to leave for good but she couldn't find a shelter or service that would take her, her kids and her two pit terriers.

“They could sense when there was tension. They were there to comfort, they were just such a grounding thing for us. I could leave behind everything else, but I just couldn't leave my dogs,” Bullock told CBS46 News. “I just couldn't see leaving a living thing that I cared so much about.”

Until she found Ahimsa House. Ahimsa provides shelter and services to pets of domestic violence victims and is one of just a few of its kind in the country.

“It changed everything. I wouldn't have left. I would have still been trying to figure it out on my own,” continued Bullock.

Pets are often used as pawns by abusers to maintain control over victims, which is why facilities like Ahimsa House are so crucial says executive director Myra Rasnick.

“They choose to stay because they're so concerned many times the abusers have threatened the pet and said if you leave, I will kill the pet or I will harm them so they choose to stay there for them,” Said Rasnick. “By removing that barrier to safety we're enabling families to get to safety sooner.

Ahimsa House was started 14 years ago by Emily Christie after she lost a pet to domestic violence. Ahimsa means non-violence in sanskrit.

She decided at that point, that nobody should have to choose between their safety and that of a beloved pet.

The organization provides pet transport, food and supplies and access to 24 hour veterinary care. All free of charge.

Pets are picked up by volunteers at a safe location and are housed in foster homes and boarding facilities across the state.

“I meet a woman at a Piggly Wiggly parking lot and gave her both my babies and it was very, very hard,” said Bullock. “And as soon as they were gone, I went home, I packed our bags.

Bullock was re-united with Kelsey and Diamond after a couple of months and today she says her family is stronger than it's ever been.

“My babies are okay, they're thriving my kids are honor roll students. My family's happy,” said Bullock.

Ahimsa House has assisted 46 domestic violence shelters and it relies heavily on donations and volunteers.

If you're interested in helping, click here.

Copyright 2018 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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