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We Talk to Old-School Punk Nathan Levinson About Shelter Reform

The fan created a Facebook page that profiles musicians who support rescue efforts and shelter reform.

Kezia Willingham  |  Mar 17th 2016


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I will always have a soft spot in my heart for punk rock music, because it was the first cultural scene I was a part of. Many of my most formative moments were spent as a young punk rocker, and it was within the scene that I was first exposed to a movement that adequately expressed the depth of emotion I felt growing up in the shadow of domestic violence and poverty.

One of the first punk rock shows I went to was the Accused (from Seattle) and Poison Idea (from Portland) at the Pine Street Theater in Portland. They were two of the Pacific Northwest’s finest punk bands in the mid-1980s.

Kezia Willingham as a young punk rocker.

Kezia Willingham as a young punk rocker.

While punk played a profound impact on my identity, I eventually grew out of its confines, but the punk rock DIY ethos and movement left its mark on my development. Because my early adolescence was shaped by a belief system that questioned authority and challenged preconceived notions of, well, just about everything, I’ve always been an independent critical thinker who prefers to follow her own path in life and am drawn to similar types.

Although I am now middle-aged, I still feel comradeship with those who were a part of that scene. So imagine my delight when I discovered a Facebook page that brings together my shared passions of animal rescue and hardcore punk: HardcorePunk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform.

Blaine Cook, currently of Toe Tag, formerly of the Accused, who also operates Zippy's Giant Burgers in Seattle.  Photo courtesy Hardcore Punk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform Facebook page.

Blaine Cook, punk musician and dog rescuer. Photo courtesy HardcorePunk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform Facebook page.

I recently got to know the man behind the site, Nathan Levinson. I found his Facebook page years ago when it profiled one of my favorite individuals from the Pacific Northwest Punk scene, Blaine Cook, the former frontman of the Accused who now is the vocalist for Toe Tag and also runs a popular small business called Zippy’s Giant Burgers close to my home.

Nathan Levinson with one of the dogs from the rescue where he volunteers.  Photo courtesy his Facebook page.

Nathan Levinson with one of the dogs from the rescue where he volunteers. (Photo courtesy his Facebook page)

Nathan Levinson is a man whose passion for rescue and hardcore led him to start the HardcorePunk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform nonprofit after being fired from his landscaping job for his role in helping a feral cat colony in Bradenton, Florida.

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Nathan describes the reason he loves hardcore punk.

“It’s reality; it’s life; it’s what you go through everyday; it’s your hopes and dreams, your beliefs, your convictions, your strengths.” He speaks of the variety of distinct beliefs towards animal rights within the genre of hardcore punk. “There’s movements within the movement: animal liberation, veganism, no-kill, the Animal Liberation Front. It’s been around for so long it’s become worldwide.”

One of the cats that Nathan rescued from the feral colony came to live at his house.  Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson.

One of the cats Nathan rescued from the feral colony now lives at his house. (Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson)

Since then, Nathan has become a vocal advocate for the no-kill movement in his Bradenton, Florida, where too many shelter dogs and cats are still euthanized for lack of available homes. Nathan is also the junior vice president of Forget-Me-Not, a shelter based in Sarasota that rescues death row dogs and provides sanctuary until they find forever homes.

Nathan and I chatted about animal rescue and his mission to help homeless animals.

Nathan Levinson with one of the dogs from his rescue.  Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson's Facebook page.

Nathan Levinson with one of the dogs from his rescue. (Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson’s Facebook page)

Catster: Tell me how you got involved in animal rescue. What was the pivotal moment for you?

Nathan Levinson: I was working for the city of Bradenton, Florida, doing landscaping and irrigation. Another coworker of mine had been feeding a feral colony of cats but was going to retire and needed someone else to step up and help.

I helped TNR a number of the cats after a couple of the females had litters of kittens. Eventually I got in trouble for feeding the cats and was later fired. I ended up bringing home three of the cats and networked with local rescue groups to rehome a number of the other cats. During this time, I got in contact with some rescue people on Facebook, and one thing led to another.

The band Leeway as featured on the Hardcore Punk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform Facebook page.

The band Leeway as featured on the HardcorePunk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform Facebook page.

How did you come up with the HardcorePunk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform Facebook page?

I’ve been a part of the hardcore music scene for 30 years and noticed a lot of the lyrics were about animal rights. It seemed like a natural match. I started reaching out to some of bands on Facebook to see if they’d be interested in being profiled.

How long have you had the page?

About one and a half or two years. I reached out to bands that I like who I knew had rescued animals of their own. Most of the people in these bands give to the cause by adopting and speaking out for animal rights. They are often so busy raising their families and playing in their bands that they don’t have a lot of time to actually spend volunteering in shelters like I do.

Moey, the cat Nathan saved who eventually led to his dismissal from his job.  Moey's final years were spent at Nathan's home.  Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson.

Moey, the cat Nathan saved who eventually led to his dismissal from his job. Moey’s final years were spent at Nathan’s home. (Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson)

What are your tips for someone who wants to get involved in advocacy?

Learn about the no-kill movement and decide what you have time to do, and then get involved. There are so many things, from events and walking dogs to volunteering in a shelter and rehabbing wildlife.

Spay and neuter is the way to change things. Irresponsible breeding is a big problem, and shelters make money on killing dogs; they are subsidized every day for every dog who is in there. It’s crooked; someday we will have a no-kill nation. It’s going to take a lot to change the system and get laws put in place that they have to follow and be accountable to.

Another one of the kitties that Nathan rescued from the feral cat colony who came to live at his home.  Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson.

Another one of the kitties that Nathan rescued from the feral cat colony who came to live at his home. (Photo courtesy Nathan Levinson)

We are a 501(c)(3) rescue and can pull animals from the local shelters by agreeing through contracts to pay their medical costs and taking responsibility for their care. We are currently unable to pull any more because we are full of dogs who we rescued when they were hours away from being killed. We’d go in and take the ones who were about to be euthanized. The municipal shelters put out calls for help via email and Facebook. We respond to those requests as capacity allows. If we had room, we’d take more. But we are full right now. We provide the medical care they need before they are adopted out. The dogs were more in need, and another rescue was helping a lot of the cats. Most of us have rescued cats who live at our homes. I currently have five cats.

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How can Catster readers help?  

There’s this saying we have on the back of our Forget-Me-Not T-shirts: Adopt; if you can’t adopt, foster; if you can’t foster, donate; if you can’t donate, volunteer; if you can’t volunteer, educate.

Find out more about HardcorePunk Speaking Out for Shelter Reform and keep up with Levinson’s work for a no-kill nation by following the site on Facebook. You can also see Forget-Me-Not’s adoptable pets on Facebook.

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About the Author: Also known as the Breadwinning Laundry Queen, Kezia lives in Seattle with her family, which includes a pack of rescued cats and dogs.  She is a regular contributor to both online and print versions of Catster and Dogster. Her writing has also appeared in the New York Times, the Seattle Times, and xoJane.com. You can follow her on Twitter.