"There are too many animals that are abused, mistreated, and abandoned. They've been ostracized, they have behavioral issues, and they're starving," Somerhalder, who's dating his costar Nina Dobrev, 23, tells Entertainment Weekly. "It's just unbelievable what we've done to the animals, and I think that's why this is so important."
Somerhalder believes that "if we can give animals a home, we can also take the youth of our country and our world -- kids who have behavioral issues, bullying other kids, and halting the progression of those around them -- and bring them together to learn compassion from one another. If you have compassion for an animal, then you'll ultimately have compassion for another human being."
"I'm so tired of the lack of compassion in our world and watching kids grow up in it. I think it's an amazing opportunity for us to show that having compassion for one another -- and all furry, scaled or feathered creatures -- is the only way we can progress."