When he’s not playing a brooding bloodsucker on The CW’s The Vampire Diaries, Ian Somerhalder is busy focusing on his other passion: saving the lives of animals in need. Growing up in Covington, Louisiana, the television heartthrob was emotionally distraught by the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and its effects on the wildlife in the area. After aiding in the massive cleanup mission, he was inspired to launch his own Ian Somerhalder Foundation (ISF) as a means of educating the masses on the importance of animal rights and rescue efforts. He is also involved with a variety of animal shelters and is constantly taking in stray dogs, cats, and horses alongside his partner-in-crime, new wife Nikki Reed.
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As one of his latest endeavors, Somerhalder visited Southern California's International Bird Rescue and Marine Mammal Center where he helped Dawn dish soap debut its animal rights awareness video series titled, "We All Love Wildlife," which culminated in the release of several rehabilitated birds back into the wild. Following the event, Yahoo Celebrity chatted with Somerhalder about his ever-growing tribe of furry friends, what he's learned from his animals, and how much he loves that Reed shares his passions.
What makes animal rescue such a priority of yours?
It all goes back to this interconnected nature between all of us — people and animals. My parents made me realize very young that we are animals. We are all supposed to live here in harmony. And that's the way it should be. What we do to the environment, we do to ourselves. So when we are poisoning the environment, we are also poisoning not just the environment that is for animals, but it's also for us. Deepak Chopra worked on this a lot with me years ago when I first started ISF— about the fact that humans are ultimately the same biological process as the earth. If you look at the trees, they are the lungs of the world. They clean the air. Our cardiovascular systems are the river systems, lakes, and oceans of the world carrying all the vital nutrients to the organism. And so if you cut all the trees down, you can't breathe. And if you pollute all the waterways, you can't transport all these nutrients to all these vital organisms. What happens? The organism dies. Animals have a right to be safe and healthy. And 90% of this is all man made. All these problems with a lot of animals are man made. And there are no two ways about it.
You and your wife are both very involved in the animal rights movement. Is it rewarding to have a partner that supports your efforts?
It's absolutely mind boggling. Everyone keeps saying, "Wow, man, you look so rested and you look so healthy." It's called having a teammate that has your back and who is so loving and so giving and has so much energy to put forth.
How many pets do you and Nikki have at home these days?
We have 9. Four dogs, 3 cats, and 2 horses. It's such a brood. It's really an incredible thing. Two of the cats are in Georgia. The horses are in Georgia and then 4 dogs and one of our cats is here in California. The whole family is going to be merging soon, which is going to be great.
Are you excited to have them all together? When it was time to introduce your pets to Nikki's, did they all instantly get along?
Oh yeah. They are all brothers and sisters. They all love each other so much. It was seamless. It was very seamless.
Do you have a favorite animal at home or are they all equally spoiled?
They are all my babies. They are all babies, period. What's amazing is when you really get to understand the compassion. The love that I see from our pit, for instance, I have just never seen that much love. The intelligence and the human-like qualities of our shepherd, you just think how could anybody abuse or kill one of these things and how do we as a nation kill 10 million animals a year in what we call humane services that are not so humane? It is up to us to shut down things like puppy mills. People need to stop buying these animals in these little stores... and these poor dogs! These female dogs are just pumping out puppy after puppy after puppy. It's really a shame. There are so many animals that need to be adopted and taken care of.
Any fun stories as to how you came to name some of your pets?
Moke, my big male cat I found on the North Shore of Oahu. His name is Mokulua and it’s just this beautiful beach. If you Google Mokulua, you'll see it. That's where I found that little sucker.