“They are burly, tattooed men in black with soft spots for neglected animals,” states Jason Nark of the Philadelphia Daily News. They call themselves Justice Rescue and the motto on their website is “It’s not about the toes we step on, It’s about the paws we protect.”
But Justice Rescue is now accused of going too far and allegedly taking a Pit Bull from a property. George Bengal, the director of the Pennsylvania SPCA says they won’t give the dog back or tell him where it is.
Russell Wayne "Wolf" Harper, 37, and Robert John "House" Lewis, 44, were reportedly arrested Tuesday, February 12, accused of impersonating a law-enforcement officer, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy for allegedly taking a pit bull in November from a property near Frankford Avenue and Orthodox Street in Northeast Philadelphia, the report states.
Both men posted bail and were released, according to philly.com.
PSCPA admits that it has received complaints about the condition of animals on that property, but claims that the dogs were found to be in good health and cared for. The owner left the dogs outside at night to secure the property, Director Bengal told the Daily News, but he added that is not illegal because they had proper shelter.
Bengal told the Daily News, “"If these individuals don't like what they see and don't want animals outside, they should direct their resources to lobbying Harrisburg."
The group defended itself in a statement posted for over 13,500 (and increasing) supporters on its Facebook page, saying it would "remain diligent in the resolution of any and all issues that affect the successful operation of Justice Rescue."
ON A MISSION OF MERCY
In August 2012, Jason Nark of the Daily News, went on a ride-along in a truck with Justice Rescue members as they checked on dogs in various crime-ridden and rough parts of the city, walking into abandoned houses, dealing with hazards and suspicious residents, assuring animals had water and shelter and were being fed and receiving necessary care.
"To an abused or neglected animal in the Philly region, Wolf and Cujo are saviors. To everyone else, particularly anyone responsible for an animal's misery, they look like outlaw bikers — burly men with tattooed biceps that knock real hard on a front door when there's a problem,” Nark wrote.
"When you feel there's nothing left in the world, with nothing left to be here for, having a dog can save your life," says Wolf, who speaks for the group.
The men insist they are not a vigilante group and that they work hand-in-hand with local police departments and animal-welfare agencies and are careful not to step on anyone's toes when it comes to investigations.
However, if someone's hiding fighting pit bulls in the basement of an abandoned building or a dog's so weak that it can't stand up to go to the bathroom, Wolf said he would not wait to do something about it, according to the report.
The Justice Rescue website says, "Simply stated, we rescue animals directly from the hands of the abusers."
JUSTICE RESCUE DENIES CHARGES
In the case of the Pit Bull they are accused of taking, Jack J. Mcmahon, attorney for the Justice Rescue members, told FOX 29 on February 14 that the group had received a complaint over the dog's welfare and went to check out the situation and had done nothing wrong.
Mcmahon denied that his clients had threatened the dog owner into giving up his dog. He stated that the owner handed the dog over voluntarily and that his clients have his signature, his information and a copy of his driver's license to prove it.