I have always admired companion animals, and several years ago I decided to volunteer at a shelter in New York City. By law the animals there had to be killed if they were not adopted within a short period of time. So I started taking photographs of the animals and posting them on social media. I wanted to convey their unique personalities as well as their loneliness and fear. Almost immediately the adoption rate at the shelter increased.

I no longer volunteer at the shelter, but I hope my photos can still raise awareness of the fact that the majority of animals in such facilities are put to death. These beautiful, abandoned creatures deserve to live out their lives in loving homes.

The photographs appear in my book Animal Shelter Portraits, which is out of print but available online as an e-book at facebook.com/theACCbook.

— Mark Ross