Celebrities such as Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey, Glenn Close, Ryan Seacrest and Common spoke to Variety about diverse range of issues that have compelled them to use their influence to make a positive impact. Katherine spoke to the entertainment industry publication about the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, the animal welfare organization she founded with her mother Nancy.

Empathy Artists

By Anna Stewart

Romeo, Stella, Weezer, Oscar, Piper and Mojo get top billing in Katherine Heigl's home.

These six canine characters, from young schnauzers to "an old man" collie make up the still-growing Heigl menagerie.

This animal-advocate actress passionately recalls shocking stories that her mother, Nancy, (who is looking after 14 rescue dogs) would tell her about abandoned and at-risk shelter animals. "Any time she would tell me one of those stories it would break my heart," says Heigl.

Bucket Recovering From Injuries Caused By Being Used As Bait In A Dogfight Bucket Recovering From Injuries Caused By Being Used As Bait In A Dogfight

Two years ago, thesp launched the Jason Debus Heigl Foundation in memory of her brother, killed in a 1986 car accident. Working alongside various rescue groups and vets, the nonprofit org fights against animal cruelty and pet overpopulation in the Los Angeles area. The foundation has pledged $1 million to spay and neuter animals, and through its Compassion Revolution program, sponsors adoption days and other placement initiatives.

"People lined up around the block," Heigl says of one event. "This one kid walked 6 miles with his dog to get him neutered. But we've already run through that million and another $500,000 on top of that. We don't want to stop the spay / neuter days. They're helping."

Annually, between 6 million and 8 million dogs and cats are abandoned at shelters in the U.S. The ASPCA estimates that five out of 10 shelter dogs and seven out of 10 shelter cats are euthanized every year. In 2009, Los Angeles City shelters took in over 50,000 cats and dogs. Of that number, nearly 20,000 were euthanized.

"My mother has a much more hopeful spirit than I do," Heigl says. "I tend to get more cynical when the stories get harder and harder. There was this beautiful little pit puppy that had been used as bait in dogfights. He had a broken neck and had to have a cast from about mid neck to mid back. Today, Bucket is six months old. He's happy and joyful. He's just this crazy, wacky guy."

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