Charges against two members of the brawny, tattooed dog lovers group, Justice Rescue, accused of stealing a Pit Bull, have finally been dropped by the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Russell Wayne "Wolf" Harper and Robert John "House" Lewis, of Justice Rescue said the dog's owner, Oren Barzeski, signed Rocky over to them. Numerous complaints had allegedly been made to the group and to the humane society about the conditions under which the Pit Bull was being kept outdoors on a car lot near Frankford Avenue and Orthodox Street.
Harper and Lewis, were arrested in February 2013 and charged with impersonating a law-enforcement officer, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy for allegedly taking the Pit Bull from the property in November 2012.
The Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals investigated afterward, and the two men—who have consistently claimed their innocence—were charged.
Jack McMahon, the attorney for Justice Rescue, announced that on December 30, the charges were dropped after Oren Barzeski did not appear in court.
McMahon told FOX 29 in February that the group had received a complaint over the dog's welfare and went to check out the situation but had done nothing wrong.
McMahon denied that his clients 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.
“They are burly, tattooed men in black with soft spots for neglected animals. 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,” wrote Jason Nark of the Philadelphia Daily News at the time of the arrest.
"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.
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.
“There was no case; there never was," McMahon said.
"Wolf" Harper, in a statement, said, "We were made out to look like biker outlaw thugs that are vigilantes by the news and D.A.'s office, when in fact we are the opposite," Harper said. "Justice Rescue is here to protect animals, and we are not going anywhere."