'Rescue Ink Unleashed': Guys With Tats Save Cats (and Dogs)

Here's my syndicated piece from this week about some great guys doing great work ...

RescueInk_Joe_Panz.JPGThere's a lot of talk these days about whether the NFL's Michael Vick - recently released from prison after serving time for running a dog-fighting ring, and now signed on with the Philadelphia Eagles - can ever redeem himself in the eyes of the pet-loving public.

If anyone knows a little about that, it's 6-foot-2-inch, 250-pound Joe Panz (left) of the animal-welfare group Rescue Ink, members of which are the stars of a new National Geographic Channel series called "Rescue Ink Unleashed," premiering Friday, Sept. 25.

His group includes guys who love tattoos and motorcycles, and more than a couple of them have also redeemed themselves from rough backgrounds and now work to rescue and rehabilitate abused animals.

"We believe in second chances," Panz says, "that's why we give the animals a second chance. However, it is a shame that somebody with the notoriety of that person, with all the kids that followed him, would choose to do something that he did.

"It's just very unfortunate, and it shows people that it doesn't mater how much money you have, if you do these types of things, you will be brought to justice, and you will be punished.Rescue_Ink_Unleashed_Batso.jpg

"So it is something that shows everybody that the society we live in today is not going to tolerate this anymore. And he is a person that couldn't get out of it, even though he tried as hard as he could, and he had to pay his penalty."

(Photo right: Rescue Ink member Batso and his dog, Inka)

Rescue Ink, based in the New York metropolitan area, came to national prominence after an August 2008 profile in The New York Times. Despite their sympathetic, compassionate interiors, these tough guys use their imposing exteriors to pry animals out of bad situations and convince the abusers to change their ways.

"The SPCA does what they do," Panz says, "and we do what we do. We don't leave a note on your door or give you a ticket. We stayed there until the situation was resolved. We have different tactics, let's put it that way."