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The Animal Crusaders of Arizona is a nonprofit, all-volunteer organization that works to reduce pet overpopulation by providing spay/neuter services and finding stray pets new homes. Rose Rice, the president of Animal Crusaders, volunteers full-time to help reduce the suffering of unwanted pets and provide adoption opportunities. For more information on how to get involved with Animal Crusaders of Arizona, visit their Web site, or call 798-6569. How did you get involved with Animal Crusaders of Arizona?

Well, I'm a veterinary technician at a local clinic, and the past president of Animal Crusaders in the late '80s came in and brought some dogs from the Tohono O'odham Reservation for spay/neuter medical services. So that's how I found out about the group, and I started out as a volunteer, later to become the president in the late '90s.

Tell me about Animal Crusaders of Arizona.

We're nonprofit, all volunteer; we have absolutely no paid staff. The organization was originally started in 1955, before I was even born, so we've been around a long time. Animal Crusaders is basically wherever the president and the board is; we don't have any permanent facility. We don't have a kennel or an office; we're just a P.O. box and a voicemail line.

How long has pet overpopulation been a big concern?

Probably from the beginning of time, except we're now more aware of it. You know, the staggering statistics of animals being euthanized every year in Pima County and all over the nation have come more to the forefront now. I think that awareness has brought it out to us, but it's been around for quite some time.

What do you focus on to reduce pet overpopulation?

We try to assist people with spay/neuter; there are so many good programs that I think people just aren't aware of right now. There's really no reason for an unwanted litter to ever be born, between the Humane Society programs and some of the other low-cost spay/neuter facilities around town. We also step in and try to assist with those animals that might fall through the cracks. We also target heavily our assistance to the population of the Tohono O'odham Nation, which is adjacent to Tucson and Pima County.

How can people get involved?

Give us a call. We have a Web site; we have a voicemail number, and if (someone) leaves a message, I return all the calls myself. We would love to have people adopt. We do adoption at At-Home Kennels, and we also do adoption at Petco at Harrison Road and 22nd Street on Saturdays. We need adoption personnel; we need people to just play with the dogs. If you don't want to get involved on a heavier level, just come out and play with our dogs, and help leash-train them and socialize them. We need foster homes for dogs that aren't very socialized or are rehabbing from injuries. There are all kinds of ways to be involved. We all work full-time jobs as well as our full-time Animal Crusader (volunteer) jobs.

You must be pretty busy then!

Very busy. Like I said, we all work full-time jobs as well as make time to go out onto the reservation and call dogs in for spay/neuter and give assistance. The reservation lands, people aren't aware of, but are as large as the state of Delaware, and so there's a lot of driving time involved, as well as taking out dog food and giving people assistance.

Since Animal Crusaders is a nonprofit organization, how do you pay?

First, we start at the very beginning of not having a lot of overhead. (With) a lot of groups, say, oh, 70 percent (of their money) or something goes to the animals, and very little to overhead. I can honestly say that we are a P.O. box and a voicemail line. We have no paid employees; we have no rent, so everything goes right into the animals. But what we rely heavily on is donations. The backbone of any group like ours is those $5 and $10 checks that just come in every week from the people who are aware of our work and support us over the years.

Anything else you would like to add?

I guess if I had a wish list, it would be for land: property, a kennel site, some place to have a permanent home for our dogs. Right now, we rent space at At-Home Kennels; we just don't have a permanent site. We could help so many more animals if we did.

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