Oscar-Winning Celeb Fights To Save 35,000 Dogs From Death

For many decades the stray dogs in Romania have lived a hard and horrible life. When they weren't scrounging for something to eat and a safe warm place to sleep, they were fleeing from the dreadful hands of the Romanian dogcatchers whose brutal and deadly tactics are well- known. But lately it seems that their fate has caught the attention of several celebrities from America. Recently while filming there, Mickey Rourke made a pledge to build a huge animal shelter in Bucharest and to start up a low-cost Spay/Neuter clinic also.

Now thousands of Romanian street dogs have also found a friend in the Oscar-winning actress Hilary Swank. Hillary, who won for her performance in "Million Dollar Baby," just visited Bucharest last week and took up the cause for fighting for the rights of these persecuted strays also. She rarely leaves home without Kai, a devoted Jack Russell stray whom she rescued in Los Angeles so she has a strong interest and personal belief in trying to make life better for stray animals.

Bucharest currently has around 35,000 strays and their fate has sparked a fierce debate here. It is believed by some that they should be put down, others advocate putting the dogs in shelters, while others want strays to be sterilized to help stop the exploding overpopulation.

While in the Romanian capital last Friday, Hillary visited several projects set up by the animal welfare foundation, Vier Pfoten, that encourage interaction between stray dogs and institutionalized people. She spoke to The Associated Press about her devotion to animals, her belief in sterilization and the ways street dogs can help disadvantaged people.

As she put it, 'I believe that is so healing to these kids who don't trust people anymore. 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." To back up her beliefs in this she is starting a U.S. charity called Hilaroo to bring needy children and animals together. The charity combines her name and that of her late dog, Karoo.

Before leaving Bucharest, Hillary urged people to spay and neuter unwanted dogs and cats rather than kill them. She summed it up by saying, "I believe in a 'No-Kill' policy. Hopefully (we are) getting to a place where we have "No-Kill" universally and just a more caring attitude in general to all animals."

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