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Commanders player works to make domestic abuse shelters pet friendly

Off the field, James Smith-Williams defends survivors of domestic violence.

WASHINGTON — James Smith-Williams plays defense for the Washington Commanders. But off the field, he defends survivors of domestic violence. 

According to Purple Leash Project, only 15% of domestic violence shelters allow pets.

"It's not really a highlighted cause, but [domestic violence victims] stay because pets are an extension of their family," Smith-Williams said.

That's why he's teaming up with Purina and the Purple Leash Project for an initiative to increase pet-friendly domestic abuse shelters.

"We went to a shelter in Arlington and helped them. I built a dog house out there, making them more pet-friendly. They really highlight the need of 'Yeah, we have people who come here with pets,' so having this facility is really important," Smith-Williams said. 

Smith-Williams said he has been an advocate to stop domestic violence since college and hopes his efforts end sooner rather than later.

"I want there to be no role for me anymore, like domestic violence isn't a thing," he said.

At 25, he said his motivation to lend a helping hand is simple.

"It's the right thing to do. If you're a good man, what are you doing? I always carry that around with me and that's what started me down this path," he explained. 

Smith-Williams will continue to use his platform to make sure survivors of domestic violence and their pets stay together by wearing custom Purple Leash cleats for the Commanders' Week 13 game this season.

To learn more about Purple Leash Project, click here.

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