(BPT) - October marks national domestic violence awareness month, a time for advocacy and action to help end domestic abuse in all forms — which all too often includes both people and pets. It’s estimated that one in three women and one in four men will experience some form of domestic abuse in their lifetimes, but only ten percent of domestic violence shelters are outfitted to accommodate pets. This leaves many survivors with a heart-breaking choice — stay in a dangerous situation or leave their pets behind to face the abuser alone. As a result, nearly half of victims will delay leaving their abuser if they can’t take their pet with them.

Fortunately, work is currently underway to create more safe spaces for domestic abuse survivors and their pets. Purina, in partnership with RedRover, has created the Purple Leash Project — a national effort to increase the number of pet-friendly domestic abuse shelters across the U.S. Greater accessibility to pet-friendly shelters means fewer people (and pets) who might suffer in silence.

As an organization built on the belief that people and pets are better together, Purina has taken their passion for pets beyond the food bowl and committed $500,000 to provide Purple Leash Project grants to fund renovations at domestic abuse shelters. In addition to offering grant support, Purina and Red Rover are providing trained volunteers to complete shelter upgrades, and donating pet food, supplies and other resources for pet-owners escaping abuse.

Recently, Emmy award-winning journalist and pet advocate, Maria Menounos, lent her time and voice to the cause by participating in a shelter renovation in Auburn, Maine — thereby making it the state’s first pet-friendly domestic violence shelter. Maria and volunteers from Purina and RedRover spent the day completing painting projects, installing privacy screens around outdoor pet play yards to allow survivors and pets to bond and heal together, and building indoor cat bridges to foster play and exercise for cats. Depending on the need of the shelter, other upgrades might include the installation of an indoor pet haven or play yard, building an outdoor Catio enclosure or dog run, and even converting existing apartment spaces to be pet-friendly housing.

Through the work of Purple Leash Project volunteers, partners and advocates at the local and national level, Purina hopes to contribute its vision of helping to create a world where no one is trapped in abuse because they can’t bring their whole family with them.

Here's how you can help this month and beyond.

Create a Conversation on Social Media

In October, you can help Purina “Take the Lead” for domestic violence survivors and their pets by discussing the cause on social media with friends, family and pet lovers. Just snap a selfie with your pet or while you’re walking your dog. Share your picture on Instagram or Facebook and then challenge three friends to do the same. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #PurpleLeashProject.

Advocate Then Donate

Speak up for those in need and help connect them to available resources. If you want to “Take the Lead” a step further, please consider donating to the Purple Leash Project. Visit PurpleLeashProject.com for more information on how to donate and to sign up for updates.

To learn more about the Purple Leash Project and find out how to get involved, visit PurpleLeashProject.com.

If you or someone you know or love is a victim of domestic abuse, call or visit the Domestic Violence Hotline 24/7 for support and resources: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Bilingual advocates are available. To find a shelter that accepts pets or offers services for pets, visit safeplaceforpets.org.