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Our History

Habitat for Hounds was born out of the desire to provide one dog, Dixie, with a doghouse. It was a cold, blustery November day in 2010, when Brenda once again drove by Dixie, who had inadequate shelter to protect her from the freezing rain. She decided to purchase a house for Dixie and would give it to her owners at no charge. Driving to Rabun Animal Hospital that morning, where she works as a veterinarian assistant, Brenda realized other dogs must be in the same situation as Dixie.


Arriving at work, she asked then-owners Drs. Stephen Arbitter and Brad Smith if she could put up a donation jar in the hopes of raising funds to buy houses for dogs with minimal or no shelter. She called the mission “Holiday Doghouse Drive.” She intended the drive to last through Christmas.


Not long after the donation jar was placed in the lobby, Erv Leonard was at RAH one morning with his dog, waiting for his appointment. Having known Erv for years as a client of RAH, Brenda sat down with him and told him about the project. He immediately said, “You know, I build doghouses.” He volunteered to make any houses that were needed. A partnership was formed at that moment. Erv had been making doghouses since the mid-1990’s, based on his own design, that has evolved to its current structure. He built these houses for his expanding family of rescued dogs.


The holidays came and went. Donations were still coming in and dogs still needed houses, so the name of the mission was changed to “Habitat for Hounds.” Dixie was the first dog to receive an insulated, straw-filled house. Now when Brenda drove by, she could see Dixie in her house, with her nose poking out of the door, warm and comfortable. We’ve been building doghouses ever since.

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