Russell Wilson has his team on the field, the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks, and then he has his team at home, which consists of four dogs — three great Danes and one “fierce” senior Malti-poo.
“The great Danes just want to lay on your lap all the time,” the quarterback tells PEOPLE. “Ciara and I will be trying to have a date night, watching a movie, and all of the sudden there’s three great Danes laying across our laps.”
Wilson and his wife, singer Ciara, count all the canines as members of their family, even if the dogs have a hard time understanding personal space.
With this close bond to his pets, Wilson can sympathize with the difficult choices pet owners living in domestic violence situations have to face.
“The reality is about half of domestic violence victims stay in abusive situations because they fear about the safety of their pet,” Wilson says, adding that only about “10 percent of domestic violence shelter allow pets.”
This leaves pet owners in abusive situations with limited options. Wilson has partnered with the Banfield Foundation to help change this grim reality, so pet owners can have “shelter and safety along with their pets.”
“We want to help people through tough situations, to make sure they feel safe and can keep their family together,” Wilson says of the Safer Together initiative he is working on with the Banfield Foundation.
Through this initiative, Banfield Foundation is investing $1 million toward pet-friendly domestic programs in the form of grants, the creation of an Advisory Committee, and continuing education for veterinary professionals on how to help pets in domestic violence situations. The grants will go to qualified non-profit organizations that are working on creating safe solutions for pet owners looking to leave abusive households with their animals.
Wilson will be helping Banfield bring more attention to these efforts with a PSA, which stars the athlete and one his “gentle giants.” The PSA will air in September in advance of National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and aims to raise awareness that “pets, like people, are also too often victims in domestic violence situations,” according to the Banfield Foundation.
Animal lovers do not have to wait until September to join the Banfield Foundation and Wilson in their work to help pet owners in abusive situations, you can learn about how you can help keep pets and pet owners safe by visiting the Safer Together initiative’s website.