You would think that scoring sponsorship deals from Nike and Plan B, winning the X Games, and being widely recognized as one of the best pro skaters in the world might make some people pretty full of themselves. You can be sure that if any of us peta2 folks ever manage to do any of those things, we’re gonna devote all of our free time to driving around in fancy cars and being obnoxious at parties. But for some reason, Paul Rodriguez never got the memo about how fame’s supposed to go to your head …

When we sat down with Paul recently, we discovered that not only is he one of the most down-to-earth people you’ll ever meet, but he strongly believes in the importance of getting active and doing something to make a difference, especially when it comes to helping animals. Paul also had a whole lot to say about skating, his family life, and how he’s come to understand that if you wouldn’t want to see your cat or dog suffer, you shouldn’t tolerate cruelty to any animals, whatever form it takes.

What would you say it takes to succeed as a pro skater? Is there anything in particular that you’ve struggled with along the way?
Basically a struggle with myself, keeping the mental motivation, the drive. Like really, the formula to succeed in skating is the formula to succeed in really anything anyone would want to succeed in. … Once you have that real passion for what you do, you just do it—it’s not even like it’s hard work or anything. If you love what you’re doing so much, you just want to do it.

Are there any particular animal issues that you feel strongly about?
I definitely am not into what they do with the boxer dogs, like cut their ears off and tails and stuff to have them fight. I am definitely not very fond of that, and animal testing, or product testing on animals. They’re just innocent creatures; they don’t know why they’re getting treated this way.

We deal with thousands of cruelty complaints about people who leave their dogs chained up outside for their whole lives like they were some kind of furry alarm system. What would you say to somebody who treats an animal like that?
It frustrates me! Sometimes … just thinking of that, I get angry, I want to hurt this person—obviously I know it’s not the right answer, but I get angry because animals are innocent. I can’t stand seeing an animal get hurt. You know those tapes, Faces of Death? I could actually kind of stand more watching that situation happen to a human being rather than to an animal, because they’re innocent, they don’t know why they’re being treated this way—but when that violence is committed on a human, maybe that human did something to piss someone off. I don’t like seeing anyone get hurt—but animals, it hits the heart.

Your dad (Paul Rodriguez the comedian) is a famous actor; how did he feel about your decision to choose skating instead of another profession?
He was worried for sure. It’s not known to the general public that professional skateboarding is a lucrative business to be in, so most people’s general assumption is it’s a kid’s thing and you can make a couple of dollars here and there from a contest, but they don’t understand how a sponsorship deal works and how many kids there are skating throughout this world and how big of a sport it’s really becoming.

Do you see yourself doing any acting now that you’ve proved that you can make it as a skateboarder?
It’s definitely a big interest of mine. Currently, I’m about to start a film; it’s an independent film with a couple of buddies of mine, a little skate film, so I’m working my way in the back door slowly. But you know, if that never pops off, I could live with that.

Do you have any companion animals?
Yeah, I have two dogs and a cat. My littlest guy’s named Uma and the big guy is named Oreo, and my cat’s name is Sandy. All my pets have either been given to me or I’ve found them.

What are their personalities like?
Every pet I’ve had has had a pretty damn crazy personality. My littlest dog Uma, she’s half a wiener dog, half Chihuahua, and she walks around like she’s the princess of the whole house, like head pointed up, her butt’s all stuck out, she’s like the queen of the household. My cat’s real timid and real scared of everybody except me—she’ll only come up and really hang out with me, she gets scared of people … she was 6 weeks old when I got her off the street, so maybe she had a traumatic experience. My dog Oreo, my big guy … he’s just a big, dumb, happy dog and doesn’t understand his own strength—he’ll wrestle with my little dog and almost hurt her because he just doesn’t realize he’s too strong for her and too big, so I just got to keep an eye on him with her.

What would you tell your fans about the importance of compassion and getting active to help animals? The animals don’t have anyone to protect them, except for us to intervene and help them, because if we don’t stand up, then the people who are harming animals will never get stopped. So we definitely have to hold it down for the animals. Personally I pretty much love every animal—every cat, dog, lizard … whatever. It’s just real hard for me to understand people hurting animals.