Animals have always been part of Katherine Heigl's life. "We just had lots of pets from the moment I was born," she told People as part of her feature in the current issue (6/30) of the entertainment magazine. "I grew up with a black lab named Ben. There are photos of me laying and teething on his ears," she explained.

Katherine Heigl & Ben Katherine Heigl & Ben

The love affair with four-legged friends continued as Katherine grew up, and ultimately led to the creation of her animal welfare charity the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation.

"We have to diminish the number of animals entering shelters. There are enough homes but there aren't enough people adopting. They're buying, so animals end up in shelters and because there's not enough space, they have to euthanize or kill them," Katherine said discussing the pet overpopulation crisis in the United States.

Katherine practices what she preaches, having adopted eight dogs with husband Josh Kelley. Each one of them has a special role in Heigl's life, "Piper, a shepherd-lab-chow mix. She's just really sensitive to me," Katherine says. "If I'm upset or crying she will find me, even if she's all the way on the other side of the house. She just senses it."

Katherine Heigl & Piper Katherine Heigl & Piper

Her young daughters also love the dogs that share their family home in Utah. "Naleigh is really into them, but Adalaide is obsessed," Katherine reveals. "When she was 6 months I was trying to do tummy time and she hated tummy time. So I put her on her tummy and Oscar was there and he started licking her face. He loves the kids."

The entire family – furry and not – likes to cuddle on the couch each night. "Josh and I have a ritual after work," says Heigl. "After the kids go to bed we pour a drink, hit the media room and all pile up on the couch and watch movies together."

Katherine Heigl & Oscar Katherine Heigl & Oscar

Compared to her husband's feelings, Katherine's love for dogs is on another level – but she wouldn't have it any other way. "If you're talking from one to 10, I'm like a 40 and Josh is probably like an eight," jokes the actress. "I'm insane and he's normal. He has his favorites but he's become very attached to Gertrude," whom he finds quite entertaining. "[A dog] that makes you laugh like that every time you look at them, that's a real blessing."