Rescue Ink's Tattooed Tough Guys Crack Down on Animal Cruelty
Officially called Rescue Ink, this group of burly animal-lovers united in 2007 when they discovered this common ground and have come to the aid of countless animals ever since. Now they're showing the world their intolerance for animal neglect and cruelty in their new National Geographic Channel show Rescue Ink Unleashed, which premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET.
"We're glad for all of the attention it's bringing to our cause," Joe Panzarella, the leader of the pack, tells PEOPLE Pets. "It promotes awareness of animal abuse and neglect, and that we're here to advocate and educate."
And he's not talking about traditional education. These guys, some of them with past run-ins with the law, know their ink and muscles make them stand out, and they're not afraid to use their threatening looks to help animals who can't speak for themselves. Like Spike, a dog in an upcoming episode who was discovered living in filth in his owner's back yard.
"These people bought a dog because they fell in love with it as a puppy," says Panzarella. "Then the dog grew out of its environment. The dog was outside [in a pen] 24 hours a day, in the rain, the sleet, the snow ... with his urine and his feces, so the dog got really nasty. The dog was there for [about] three years ... These people didn't care about the dog anymore."
But thankfully someone did and placed a call to Rescue Ink. They went to the home to talk to the couple about the situation and eventually the owners relinquished the dog's care over to them. Now group member George "G" Perry is charged with helping to rehabilitate him. "We went in there and the dog was like an alligator. This particular dog had a lot of dog aggression, human aggression," Panzarella explains. "But we worked with him for a little while and he started to come around."
As commonplace as stories like this one are for these guys, they say each and every animal they help touches their heart and fuels their drive to do more. "We're trying to make animal abuse and neglect a taboo. Like drunk driving is a taboo," says Panzaralla. "We would like it to be the same instance when it's animal abuse. Trying to promote awareness."
They work with law enforcement to help in situations where the welfare of animals is at stake. "At first Law enforcement didn't know who we were," says Panzarella. "Once they knew we were there to make a difference, there to help, they actually do work with us now. ASPCA, Animal Control, Humane Society, PETA, they all call us when they need help. With the economic turn that we're having now, everyone needs a much help as possible."
Rescue Ink thinks they can approach an animal abuser in way that police can't. "Let's just say an official goes to an abuser's house, he pulls up in a cop car and, [immediately] the abuser knows the cop's limitations, he has certain boundaries," says towering group member Anthony Rossano (a.k.a. Big Ant). "But when we pull up, they don't know what we're going to do, they don't know what we're capable of doing. So it helps out big time."
Though they could certainly use their brawn to inflict harm upon an animal abuser, they know how to keep their emotions in check. Like in the second episode, airing Oct. 2, in which they encounter a severely malnourished Rottweiler whose owner had no use for the dog anymore.
"We wanted to take the guy out," says Eric Olsen. "But the fact that we got the dog out and saved it, that's what we all focused on. We forget about the guy. We go back we make sure that he doesn't get another dog, but we turn our anger into, 'We saved this dog. Now let's just put all our efforts into getting this guy better.' "
Click here to check out Rescue Ink's Web site and their new book, Rescue Ink. And, visit National Geographic's Web site to see clips of the show.