17-Year-Old Who Has Worked In Rescue Since He Was 8 Is A Role Model For All Of Us

Written by: Kellie Stevens

May 4, 2016

There is a very passionate young man who knew from an early age that working with rescues was something he wanted to do. Now, he is doing just that as the Social Media Manager of Rescue Dogs Rock NYC. This is the “tail” of how a little boy who loved animals has grown over the years to become involved extensively in the rescue and rehabilitation of thousands of cases.

Joe Serpico, 17 years old, has childhood memories of being happiest when he was watching Animal Planet. His favorite show? Pitbulls and Parolees.

Joe Serpico

As he continued to watch, the stories of abuse and rescue affected him so profoundly that he knew he needed to help. He begged his mother, an active volunteer with the ASPCA, to take him with her when she went in to work with the animals until eventually she gave in.

Volunteers must be at least 16 years of age to handle the animals, so 8-year-old Joe would sit with the cats and puppies to socialize with them. They would even spend summer weekends at their vacation house in New Jersey going to shelters and volunteering time. No season or change in location was prohibiting young Joe from spending time with his beloved shelter animals.

Joe Serpico Great Dane

Joe making friends in the park with a Great Dane he was told “doesn’t like many people”
Around 10 years of age, Joe started integrating this passion into his school life. He would talk about rescue animals and the stories of abuse that were going on, educating his peers and involving them in a world they likely had little knowledge about. Joe also began writing about rescue animals and organizations, teaching others about ways they could help.


Each year, his teachers started letting him speak during assemblies on this very topic, reaching an even wider audience. From as early as 4th or 5th grade until now as a junior in high school, Joe has been spreading the word of rescue and involving anyone that he can in helping these animals – an admirable undertaking for someone of such a young age.

Though Joe still occasionally volunteers with the ASPCA to this day, he branched out to start working with other rescue organizations through the years. He began spending every weekend going to adoption drives and events to socialize with other animal advocates, and of course – the animals. He was spending every free moment he had working to help these rescues, in addition to having several rescue cats, dogs, and even guinea pigs, himself.

Jasmine Marshmallow

Joe’s current rescue pets, Jasmine (left) and Marshmallow (right)

Like most youth these days, Joe began using social media as he grew older (he specifically started when he was 12). This opened an even wider platform for him to speak out on animal rescue and work to help those in need.

He became so skilled over the years that when he reached out to co-founders Stacey Silverstein and Jackie O’Sullivan of Rescue Dogs Rock NYC in March of 2015 to become involved with the budding rescue, they let him start an Instagram to further promote their cause. (They just celebrated their one-year anniversary, AND hit the 1000 DOGS SAVED mark!)

Joe Serpico RDRNYC group

Serpico standing (center top) with RDRNYC volunteers and co–founders Jackie O’Sullivan (standing first on left) and Stacey Silverstein (standing second from right)

When asked what drew him to RDRNYC, Joe told BarkPost:

I saw their focus on abuse cases, which is the thing that led me to become involved with rescue in the first place. More than that, I also saw their commitment to animals and not just rescuing based on appearance or the ones that are easy to get adopted. They really care about the dogs that need a lot of help, not just dogs that will bring the rescue money like some other organizations.

You may remember the stories of Spirit, Phenomenal Phoebe/Astonishing Arabella, and Loki the Giant Mastiff – all saved by RDRNYC, recovered or almost recovered from wounds and sickness, and all with adoptive homes!

Spirit Loki Phoebe

Spirit (left), Loki (center), and Phoebe (right)

We spoke with co-founder Stacey Silverstein, who told us that Joe has been with them since almost the beginning. He is 100% responsible for their Instagram account, among many other other things.

She went on to tell us that Joe is an “invaluable” part of RDRNYC and they are so grateful to have him. “He is the first one to arrive at events, and the last one to leave,” Silverstein related.

Apart from managing their social media accounts, Joe also works incredibly hard to get them exposure through many channels. He reaches out to well-known animal advocates to have them participate and promote the rescue, events, and dogs they have for adoption.

Some of these people have been Instagram favorite and super-foster mom Noelani (you might know her from the viral video of a Pit Bull “falling back into bed because she just can’t handle life that day”), NYC Z100 and iHeartRadio personality Elvis Duran (who also serves on the board for Rock & Rawhide Rescue), and the Elvis Duran Show Executive Producer Skeery Jones.


Joe (bottom center), Skeery Jones (top center), and some of the RDRYNC volunteers at an event

As if that wasn’t enough, Joe also helps coordinate events, works with fundraising and adoption, helps with transport, participates in getting RDRNYC grants (including a very large one from the ASPCA), and forms partnerships with various companies to further their marketing.

You might wonder, how does Joe have to do all of this AND go to school? Apart from all the work he does to promote animal rescue in school, he also coordinates animal job sites with their school volunteer programs. He spends mornings before school and during his lunch break checking and posting to social media for RDRNYC as well.

Joe tells BarkPost that “rescue is about 80% of his brain.” He had done an amazing job of juggling all of these responsibilities while still managing to work towards getting his diploma.

Joe Serpico 2

We asked what his plans are once he graduates high school, and you can bet that it has to do with rescue! Joe tells BarkPost:

“People think that because I’m so into animals, that I’ll want to become a veterinarian. I don’t think I could handle that!”

Instead, Joe plans on going to college locally and focusing on public relations and marketing. He also wants to start working part-time while he does this, perhaps with a doggie daycare or an animal shelter. And he will still be working with RDRNYC of course. If we could bottle Joe’s energy and initiative and distribute it, we might just have a fighting chance at getting all these homeless dogs adopted!

Last but certainly not least, Handsome Joe has also been doing some modeling! He told BarkPost this is something else he wants to focus more on in the future, but not just because he wants some recognition himself… It’s another way for him to get exposure for rescue animals! Duh!

He has been working with photographers to get pictures of the dogs, and models with major Instagram followers to promote adoptables and events even more. This kid is literally tapping into everything he can in the name of rescue. We couldn’t possibly be more impressed, but have a feeling there’s lots more to come from Joe Serpico.

Joe Serpico Marshmallow

Joe with his rescue bunny Marshmallow

Let us all take a lesson from Joe and do our part to get involved with rescue and animal advocacy. If he can do all this before he even graduates high school, we can certainly do more to help promote, donate, volunteer and rescue ourselves.

You can meet Joe and the rest of the Rescue Dogs Rock NYC crew at their next event on May 13–15. It’s a SUPER ADOPTION EXTRAVAGANZA hosted by Best Friends Animal Society and will be held at the Brooklyn Expo Center (72 Noble St. in Greenpoint).

Admission is free, so go say hi, show your support, learn how to get involved, and maybe even adopt a furry friend if you’ve been looking for one. (Joe can be reached via his personal Instagram page here.)

Super Adoption

Help Joe and RDRNYC continue to do their work by donating, volunteering, following them on Facebook and Instagram, spreading the word, and of course — ADOPT DON’T SHOP!

Featured Image via: Joe Serpico/Rescue Dogs Rock NYC
Sources: Wikipedia, iHeartRadio

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Written by: Kellie Stevens

May 4, 2016

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