Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is taking his focus off the football season to share an important message.
The professional football champion and pet advocate recently joined his dog Naomi in the Banfield Foundation’s Safer Together public service announcement.
In the PSA, Wilson, 30, sheds light on how domestic violence affects pets and their owners. According to the Banfield Foundation, 89% of pet-owning domestic violence victims report that their abuser has either threatened, injured or killed a family pet.
Unfortunately, only about 10% of domestic violence shelters in the country allow animals and have pet-friendly facilities for families with pets. This leaves pet owners with the difficult decision to leave their pet at home, rehome their pet or stay in an abusive household to be with their pet.
Around 48% of pet-owning individuals looking to leave abusive situations, remain in these situations to be able to protect their pet from harm.
“It’s heartbreaking that, all over the country, women, men and children are seeking refuge from domestic violence – and many remain in danger because they do not have access to pet-friendly shelters or programs,” Wilson said in a statement. “I am honored to partner with the Banfield Foundation to help create a world in which victims never have to choose between their own safety and the safety of loved ones, including their pets.”
The Banfield Foundation, founded in Sept. 2015 as the charitable arm of Banfield Pet Hospitals, has already awarded close to $410,000 to 46 domestic violence related non-profits through their Safer Together initiative. These funds have helped over 4,000 pets find safety with their families.
Along with Wilson’s PSA, Banfield is continuing to raise awareness about the need for pet-friendly domestic violence shelters by committing to invest $1 million over four years to the cause through its Safer Together program. The $1 million will go towards the creation of more pet-friendly options for families leaving abusive situations, an all-volunteer Advisory Committee and education programs for the veterinary profession.
“We want to help people through tough situations, to make sure they feel safe and can keep their family together,” Wilson told PEOPLE about the Safer Together initiative.