Oscar winner Hilary Swank is turning her love for animals into a fight for their welfare and survival.
The 37-year-old actress was in Bucharest, Romania, late last month touring projects set up by the nonprofit Vier Pfoten, which helps connect rescue animals with institutionalized people.
The nation's capital is home to an estimated 30,000-50,000 stray dogs. Under a law passed late last year, those animals that present a hazard to the public will be rounded up, placed in a shelter, and given 30 days to find adoption or euthanized. Swank believes there's a better answer, especially when it comes to helping children.
"I believe that is so healing to these kids who don't trust people anymore," she told the AP. "The unconditional love of an animal is very healing and teaches them about not just unconditional love but about a relationship, about responsibility, about anger management."
Inspired by the work being done in Romania, Swank also revealed that she's starting her own U.S. charity called "Hilaroo." It will be based on a similar idea of helping children by connecting them with rescued animals.
"I believe in a 'no-kill' policy," she said. "Hopefully (we are) getting to a place where we have 'no-kill' universally and just a more caring attitude in general to all animals."
Swank's pull of the spotlight on Romania comes on the heels of another famous name also working on behalf of stray animals in the country. In April, Mickey Rourke announced a $2 million campaign to build a massive animal shelter just outside Bucharest, committing more than $250,000 of his own money to get it started.
According to the Bucharest Herald, Rourke's Wild Dogs of Romania Sanctuary will be the size of a football field and able to host thousands of dogs. In courting investors, Rourke has apparently stressed that this is more a matter for the heart and not the wallet, saying that “nobody will make any money from this investment.”