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Skin Art with a Big Heart

September 15, 2008 by Tails Magazine in Inspiration, September 2008 with 0 Comments

Rescue Ink’s dangerous-looking dudes work tirelessly for animals in need.

By Erin Auerbach

You wouldn’t approach them in a dark alley—or in broad daylight for that matter—but there’s no need to run from Rescue Ink’s crew, unless you’re messing with an animal. Rescue Ink is the brainchild of longtime friends Mike Tattoo, Johnny “O” Batso, Big Ant, George, Sal, Biagi, Angel, Des, and Ron, who have been hanging out together at hot-rod shows for years. Tattoos adorn much of their skin, but these tough guys from Long Island agree that the biggest stain on society is the mistreatment of animals.

It all started when their mutual friend Robert—currently Rescue Ink’s executive editor—organized a meeting with them last year. The result was the establishment of a nonprofit to combat animal abuse and neglect. What began as a local effort to assist shelters and local rescue organizations has ballooned into a national effort to reach out and help animals in need.

Individually, they have been volunteering as rescuers for years, working with local Humane Societies and shelters, helping to recover stolen pets or rescuing abused creatures. The insidious and widely reported case of Maximus, a dog chained to a tree and set on fire by his guardian in the same county they live in (Suffolk), inspired the guys to come together to prevent such heinous acts.

“It was the ultimate animal-cruelty case, but the abuse wasn’t new, and we decided that we need to do something about this,” says Robert (who declined to use his last name). “So we set up Rescue Ink, and before you knew it, we were getting seven calls a day for help in animal-abuse situations that no one else wanted to handle.”

Men and women who volunteer their time for Rescue Ink work in diverse careers, from body building to interior design to law enforcement. Most have tattoos and know what it’s like to be judged based on their appearance, which is why they have a lot of empathy for Pit Bulls and other animals with unfair reputations. Rescue Ink collaborates with special trainers who are experts with Bully breeds and work with these animals to make sure they’re adoptable to appropriate homes.

“We are constantly working with people to make sure a Pit Bull doesn’t go to the wrong family,” Robert says. The group is in the process of creating public service announcements featuring celebrity tough guys and rappers to dissuade people from Pit Bull fighting as well.

Rescue Ink’s work extends well beyond its Pit Bull Awareness Program. The organization performs many different functions, all within the boundaries of the law. “Local agencies call on us unofficially to help,” Robert explains. “We recently rescued 30 cats from a house that Hazmat (hazardous materials authorities) refused to go into. We send animals we rescue to Save a Pet, a no-kill shelter in Port Jefferson Station, New York.”

Rescue Ink also organizes a Trap-Neuter-Return program that gathers feral cats and sterilizes them before returning them to their colony, works with local officials on pro-animal legislation, established Companion Outreach Services and the Puppy Mill Consumer Awareness Program, and recently distributed 25,000 flyers reminding people how important it is to not leave pets in the car during the summer heat.

For its School Visitation Initiative, Rescue Ink members visit elementary and middle schools to teach students how to detect and properly report animal abuse and neglect. Meanwhile, the Animal Housing Workshop builds dog and cat houses to provide pets with proper shelter. “We’ve built fences for people so their dogs can’t escape, and we’ve donated food to people who are having hard times and struggling to feed their pets.”

Now that Rescue Ink has received national exposure thanks to a recent feature on Ellen, it has been receiving several hundred emails and more than 200 calls—even from overseas—daily.

While on the outside their rugged appearances may be off-putting to some, the guys say they’re judged by what’s beneath their skin. “We don’t come into rescue situations as thugs or gang bangers,” Robert says. “We come as gentlemen who are here to help. All we care about is the end result.”

For more information, visit RescueInk.org.

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