Hayden Panettiere Offers Struggling Woman Cash for Her Dog

Hayden Panettiere

Albert Michael/Startraks

updated 07/20/2011 AT 5:00 PM ET

originally published 07/21/2011 AT 9:00 AM ET

Hayden Panettiere has a soft spot for all animals, but one dog holds a special place in her life.

“My baby, my angel Kayla, was my first dog, and I rescued her off the street,” the actress told PEOPLE at Neutrogena’s 2nd Annual Wave for Change event in L.A. “I found her being dragged by this woman who was obviously struggling with drugs, and I convinced her to give me the dog.”

The convincing wasn’t easy and didn’t come cheap, but the former Heroes star was smitten by the 12-week-old pup. “I gave [the woman] a couple hundred bucks, she said. It seemed like she was really trying to get help.”