A North Carolina tattoo artist is under fire after authorities discovered he hadn’t just been inking people. A concerned citizen filed a complaint after discovering that Ernesto Rodriguez had tatted an intricate design on his 4-month-old Pit Bull Terrier puppy, Duchess.
“It’s just art,” Rodriguez tells CNN of Duchess’s fresh ink. “I want to put art on my dogs.”
Rodriguez is now under investigation and could face possible animal cruelty charges. But despite the complaints and the criticism, Rodriguez finds nothing wrong with tattooing Duchess. In fact, Rodriguez’s other Pit Bull, Duke, has his own tattoo. The tattoo artist is claiming the canine tattoos are a means of identifying his dogs in the event they are lost or stolen.
“What do they do when they brand animals and tattoo horses on their ear and brand their cow?” Rodriguez asks in an interview with WXII12 News. “You’re not abusing them. You’re just protecting them so they don’t get lost.”
“If you go on Google and type up dog tattoos, you’ll get a thousand images of dogs tattooed. This has been going on for years,” he adds.
Indeed tattooing animals is a common practice in the agriculture industry; many livestock sport tattoos that help farmers distinguish between individual members of the herd. It is also common practice in many veterinarian offices and spay/neuter clinics to place a small tattoo on the abdomen or ear of the animal after surgery to indicate the animal has been altered.
But is this really a case of so-called harmless identification tattoos, or is something more sinister at play in the case of Rodriguez and his dogs, Duchess and Duke?
While some are siding with Rodriguez, many animal advocates are barking mad. Some even find similarities between Rodriguez and northern Pennsylvania woman Holly Crawford. Crawford was convicted of animal cruelty in 2010 for using a 14-gauge needle to pierce the ears of young kittens. Crawford was sentenced to six months of house arrest for the horrific creation of these “Gothic Kittens.”
Rodriguez, however, does not believe tattooing his dog constitutes animal cruelty; the tattoo artist is insisting Duchess felt no pain while getting inked. He maintains that his dog was still under anesthesia following an ear-docking surgery, that he carried Duchess to his shop and tattooed her there.
“She slept the rest of the day,” Rodriguez tells WGHP FOX 8 News.
But Caleb Scott, President of North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare, has his doubts. The animal advocate believes Duchess was likely conscious while her owner tattooed her, that she must have felt the intense sting of the tattoo needle on her belly.
“Usually when you pick up a dog or cat from the vet, they’re already awake after a procedure,” Scott points out. “They don’t usually hand you over a dog that’s asleep.”
Many critics point out Rodriguez’s suspicious social media post as evidence of shady intent. According to the Huffington Post, Rodriguez created and then later deleted a post on the Planet Ink Tattoos Facebook page in which the tattoo artist bragged about inking his Pit Bull.
“Animal control came looked at my beautiful dog and left…wow…what a waste of tax payers money,” Rodriguez posted on the page, “…so im still gonna tattoo my dogs whenever I feel like it…good try haters thanks for all the advertisement.”
The Daily Mail reports that, before the post was removed, commenters were weighing in on the page left and right. “Receiving a tattoo requires consent,” wrote one concerned Facebook commenter. “Your dog cannot consent. Please be respectful to those who cannot consent.”
“This is so sad,” another posted. “There is not a dog in the world who deserves to go through this type of cruelty. I feel terrible for any dog in your care. I wish they would take them all away and find safe, loving homes for them.”
It is not yet known whether charges will be filed against Rodriguez, but it is clear he feels no remorse for his actions. When asked if he regrets tattooing Duchess and Duke, Rodriguez says, “No not at all. I’ll do it again [to] my next dogs.”