kw: book reviews, nonfiction, animal rights, rescue
It is not your everyday scenario. The man being visited has been seen kicking and shouting at his dog. Everyone knows it. People say, "Something ought to be done." Someone does: the visitor is big, even massive. But the dog owner has five friends with him, and they cuss and slam the door. A couple days pass. A dozen Harleys roar up and soon a dozen big, big men are on the porch. They are quiet, and in seconds, so is the homeowner. He agrees to let the dog be taken to a better home. The visitors call it "Peace through superior firepower." If you are strong enough, you don't need to fight.
So who are all these big guys who love animals? In that instance, Anthony Missano simply called together a bunch of his friends, motorcycle-riding buddies. But a few years later, he met Robert Misseri, also a cycle aficionado, also an animal lover, and the core of Rescue Ink began to come together. Today there are ten members, all street-wise, mostly tattooed, prone to wearing muscle shirts, and there is plenty of muscle to show off.
In the book Rescue Ink: How Ten Guys Saved Countless Dogs and Cats, Twelve Horses, Five Pigs, One Duck, and a Few Turtles, writer Denise Flaim has brought together the men's stories (and that of Mary, a "den mother" to the group). The book's chapters highlight mini-biographies of the members, and feature stories of their triumphs and some of their frustrations.
Because of their commitment to work within the bounds of the law—member Angel Nieves is a former police detective—they cannot brashly impose their will on animal abusers and hoarders. Their sheer power ensures they are usually treated with respect and listened to, but they rely on the power of persuasion and reason to get their point across. Their mission is primarily education. Intractable cases are referred to police.
Batso is not entirely typical, even for this atypical group. He's close to twice as old as most of them, and he has a longer rap sheet, much longer. But he's also a favorite of the youngsters they visit at schools and other events. What he does exemplify is the power of time and experience, and learning, to turn a life around. Animals often need help getting free of a damaging life. But then, so do people, and Batso and the others see beyond the abusers to people in need of their own better opportunities. Sometimes helping a guy build a doghouse can turn both dog and owner's life around.
While I suspect that the real story isn't so simple, I have dug around and found that there is nearly no negative publicity about Rescue Ink. They are not a bunch of punk kids ripping off animals in some short-fuse glory grab. They are mature; they grown past the impulsive stage. They have diligently built up a network of "no kill" shelters and other organizations that they can work with to help rescued animals find better homes. They also work with TNR (trap-neuter-release) groups to reduce the fertility of groups of feral cats and dogs. They see it as the only humane way to reduce the feral population.
Many people who see animals abused do nothing, for fear that the abuser will be equally abusive to them. They are usually right. Rescue Ink has shown what can happen when that fear is removed.