Rescue Ink is a vision of contradiction: large, tough guys from the streets of New York who dedicate their time to the defenseless of their community, because they know what it is to be truly defenseless.
The glue of Rescue Ink
“We were just guys who, if you had a problem, you’d come to us and we’d help you out,” founding member Joe Panz told iHowie last week. “Rescue groups would be comprised largely of women. They’d come to us from time to time, when they’d seen fighting animals, or people threatened them. We’d go with these women to the homes, or, if it were something nasty, we’d go ourselves and let them know the proper way to treat animals and people.”
It’s more than a love for animals that brings the members of Rescue Ink together though. It’s an understanding of the danger and violence that can exist when it goes unchecked.
“The FBI did a survey of serial killers, rapists and pedophiles,” Joe said. “One major correlation: animal abuse. They practice on animals. When they feel comfortable, and they can’t feed that sickness, they move on to something else. These are the people Rescue Ink seeks out. Seventy-five per cent of households we investigate have child and spousal abuse. We see a lot of gang activity.
“The gangs try to desensitize kids. They don’t teach them how to kill a person – it attracts too much attention. What they do is make these 10 or 12 year olds torture animals or puppies so when it comes time to hurt a person, they just do it. The other problem is when they go back to school, they can’t negotiate their way out of a problem like a normal kid. They will react with violence, and extreme violence at that. They can’t have a fist fight – if they do, it might turn into a stabbing or a shooting.
“We talk to these kids because we’ve been there. I’ve been discarded, I’ve been shot, I’ve been left in the street for dead by the people who are supposed to care. I know how these kids feel. I know how the dogs feel. When I talk to these kids they look into my eyes and they see it. I’m telling them situations they’ve been in, or will be finding themselves in. We want to give these kids a second chance. That’s what brings Rescue Ink guys together: we’ve been through bad times in our lives. We feel compelled to defend those who can’t defend themselves.”
The A-Team and Infamy
“We were at a New York car show last year and they had the A-Team van,” Panz said. “We walked up and lifted the rope and went to look at it. We were looking at the van – opening the doors and stuff. One of the producers of the A-Team movie was there and walked up to us and said, ‘I know who you guys are. You’re the Rescue Ink guys. You’re like the real A-Team.’
Rescue Ink has had its share of critics: those who don’t see past the tough exterior of the men, or those who disagree with their tactics. There have even been those who have seen their popular television show on National Geographic Channel and claimed they aren’t really animal rescuers. But Panz isn’t afraid of a bit of criticism.
“We’re always accused of doing bad shit. But we’ve never been convicted of a crime, we’ve never gone to jail. We’ll do whatever is humanly possible within the means of the law to help someone. We have a war room – everyone has a say. We talk about the cases, we do our due diligence, we send people out to take pictures… we’re prepared before we go. We don’t run into situations half-haphazardly.
“We come from really rough neighbourhoods,” Panz said. “If you cross the wrong person or act the wrong way, you’re seriously done. Respect is a way of life. We respect everybody and you know who to give it to and who not to give it to. We don’t claim to be smarter than anyone else… we’ve just been around longer. We tend to read poeple a couple of seconds faster. That’s what keeps us alive. A lot of people think the dangerous house will be the big bad guy wth a pipe. No – it’s the 80-year-old-lady with a gun under her dress. It’s things you wouldn’t expect. You have to be ready.”
The Finish Line
Like any professional in a difficult and sometimes violent or dark line of work, the guys at Rescue Ink try to keep business as business.
“We try to laugh as much as possible,” he explained. “It gets to you… you try to leave it outside when you go home. Some people rescue with their hearts, and some people rescue with their heads. People who rescue with their hearts, they end up with 50 animals in their house. We know they have the best of intentions, but it’s gonna turn up bad.
“There’s a lot of people doing their own rescues, but you can’t depend on just one person. You need people who rescue with their heads. A rescue isn’t a rescue until the animal is in a forever home. Make sure the dog is of sound mind and body; do the aggression tests. After he passes everything – or you take the time to train him – you go out and get him a forever home. Once he’s there, then the rescue is complete. That’s it. It’s not rocket science: don’t rescue what you want, rescue what you can.”
It’s Not About Tough
When asked about being a tough guy, a smile could be heard in Joe’s voice as he said, “where I come from, tough grows on trees.”
“We do not get paid for this. We run a shelter. We all have jobs. We don’t get many donations; in fact, we get very little. Look at us – would you donate to us? We do things our way. We think outside of the box. We care about the community, we care about women, we care about children. That’s why we get things done: we’re not on the clock. It’s a passion. It’s a mission. That’s what makes a difference.
“It’s a very rough road. And sometimes the road to redemption isn’t a peaceful one. It behooves you to walk quietly and carry a big stick. We’re not looking for trouble, but we’re ready.”