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Eastside woman operates Tucson's only nonprofit reptile rescue from her own home

Cressi Brown founded the Southern Arizona Reptile Rescue & Education in 2018
Posted at 6:32 PM, Jul 03, 2024

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Six years ago, one east side woman turned her passion for reptiles into a full-time job when she realized Tucson needed a local reptile rescue center.

"I can remember being five years old, living in Southern California, and finding salamanders and lizards and taking them in," said Cressi Brown, the founder of the Southern Arizona Reptile Rescue & Education.

Brown explained her passion for reptiles and amphibians goes back to when she was just a little girl.

"My mom was a veterinary technician for over 35 years, so I was one of the lucky kids that could take something home, and she would give me something to put it in and teach me about it a little bit," Brown said.

After moving to Tucson, Brown spent time as a rattlesnake relocator before discovering the need Tucson was missing.

"It quickly dawned on me that Tucson needs a reptile rescue," she said.

Southern Arizona Reptile Rescue & Education is located at located at 6924 E. Speedway Blvd.

In 2018, she officially started the grassroots organization — operating out of her own home. The nonprofit specializes in caring for surrendered animals like pythons, toads and lizards, with the goal of eventually finding them a new home.

Essentially, she runs the equivalent of an animal center where you might go to adopt a cat or dog, but for reptiles and amphibians instead. She says because all of the animals are former pets, none of them are poisonous or venomous.

"I think one of the most challenging things is making sure people understand the commitment they’re getting into," Brown said.

Southern Arizona Reptile Rescue & Education is located at 6924 E. Speedway Blvd.

She says education is also an important part of her efforts, not just for those looking to adopt, but also for her team of about 20 volunteers, some of whom are getting their start early, just like she did.

"Each time one gets adopted, I get more and more sad because I miss those animals," said Calista Hosler, a young 7-year-old volunteer.

When asked how she feels to see other young children find interest in the animals she said she feels grateful: "We’re going to have a wonderful next generation of reptile rescuers."

If you have a reptile or amphibian you would like to surrender, or are interested in adopting, you can visit their website.

See Kenny Darr's previous interview about Sonoran Desert Toads with Cressi Brown:

Monsoon in Tucson means mating season for the Sonoran Desert Toad

Kenny Darr is a reporter for KGUN 9. He joined the team in January 2023. Before arriving in Arizona he was an Anchor and Reporter at KADN in Lafayette, LA. Share your story ideas with Kenny by emailing or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.