In a city that's had it up to its collar with abused dogs and cats, nearly 60 people are pledging to get paw-print tattoos if a gang of tough guys with a soft spot for furry things will come to town in the name of stopping animal cruelty.
The dozens promising to get tattoos on The Baltimore Sun's Unleashed blog hope to catch the attention of the guys behind Rescue Ink, a nonprofit group based in Long Island, N.Y., that's sort of a Hells Angels for the good of animals. Their motto: "Abusers are losers."
Their show, "Rescue Ink," premieres at 10 tonight on the National Geographic Channel. In the premiere, the guys help a veteran and his pit bulls and confront a man accused of shooting stray cats with a pellet gun.
After a pit bull puppy named Phoenix had to be euthanized a few months ago after being doused with gasoline and set on fire, and then a number of cats were found tortured throughout the summer, the city established an anti-animal abuse task force. Animal lovers in town hope a visit from the guys, all muscled and tattooed, will give the movement a jump-start.
"A visit from the badass guys of Rescue Ink would generate the momentum to really get an animal-protection movement off the ground," said Shannon River, 27, of Glen Burnie, who works for Maryland's Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, the first person to volunteer to put some skin in the game, so to speak. After River offered to get a tattoo featuring the beefy paw print of Lucy, her pit bull, 55 other people followed suit within a matter of hours.
"I think this could galvanize people and help them realize that animal abuse is a problem - a problem that we can all address," River said.
Andy Wolt, 23, an education outreach specialist with NASA, lives in Baltimore with Chaps, a fat, orange cat with no tail, and Charlie, a long-haired gray. Wolt thinks even folks from the meaner streets of Baltimore would listen to Rescue Ink's gang of 10.
"There are a lot of rescue guys around, but these guys are big guys," he said. "If one of them came up to me and told me to stop doing something I was doing, I'd stop quickly. I think they could get the message across here pretty well."
Johnny O, a martial arts master with two pit bulls, Lucy and Chuck, and two bearded dragon lizards, said Baltimore's support is more than flattering. And with Asian animal symbols that cover his arms like the sleeves of a shirt - a dragon, a tiger, a crane - he's a guy that respects a tattoo.
"That's real big support," he said Thursday. "And support for us is everything."
Eric, a 6-foot-tall, 230-pound dude with a Rottweiler named Marley, three miniature pinschers, Axel, Diesel and Kash, and Chloe, a Chihuahua, said Baltimore's effort shows how much some in the city care about animals.
"Our main goal with this show is to bring awareness to people," said the man whose muscled right bicep is inked with a snarling Rottie. "You can still be a tough guy and a badass, but you can do the right things."
Both agreed that the group would like to come back to Baltimore - they were here briefly during the Phoenix case - but it largely depends on the group being able to get money to pay for it. The group is a nonprofit that relies largely on donations.
They said they could see doing a rally of some sort, hopefully to reach young people to, as Johnny O put it, "stop it at the beginning rather than the end."
"If we get funding to do things, we're down there," Johnny O said.
"If everyone don't take crap, like we don't, that will solve it," Eric added.
"Rescue Ink" airs at 10 tonight on National Geographic Channel.