As Charleston Animal Society’s Director of Anti-Cruelty & Outreach, Aldwin Roman is the guy who tracks down people who abuse animals and throws the book at them.
His name first came across my desk when I was assigned to write an article about a sweet old mastiff named Miles that had been found living in a filthy closet, starved nearly to death. And then again when a sweet stray called Caitlyn was found with her muzzle taped shut. I loved the idea of Aldwin. I wanted there to be a scary, badass person out there making sure all animal abusers are drawn and quartered. And then I actually met him. It turns out he’s a young, vegan sweetheart of a guy whose life revolves around his work, his wife, and two little girls. He is a scrappy, serious guy with the wisdom and compassion of someone twice his age. Aldwin Roman, it turns out, is a badass of a different sort. The sort the world needs.
In Eastern philosophy there is the concept of “right action”—the idea that every action comes from compassion, even when exacting justice for terrible cruelties. In Miles’ case, Aldwin realized that though Miles was seriously malnourished, he was well trained and had never suffered intentional abuse. It became clear that the owner had gotten himself into a bad situation and his pride kept him from asking for help. The owner was heartbroken over Miles’ condition, and heartbroken when Miles was taken away. After the owner was sentenced, Aldwin told him that if he ever wanted to adopt another dog, to come see him first. In Caitlyn’s case, right action meant throwing the book. And Aldwin threw it. Hard. So hard that Caitlyn’s story went around the world, sending a message to the darkest corners of the Earth that there will be no mercy for people who intentionally abuse animals. So in case you’re underestimating that nice, young vegan guy…don’t.
Aldwin, a serious guy with a B.A. in International Affairs, seems surprised by his own compassion, and quickly gives the credit to his wife Christine. He says she is always able to find the human element in the horrible stories, and always reminds him why he does what he does. “I set out to help the oppressed who have no voice,” he says. “I didn’t intend to work with animals, but my wife reminded me that nobody has less of a voice than animals.”
As the other half of his job, Aldwin administrates the Pets for Life program funded by the Humane Society of the United States. This program allows Aldwin to do whatever needs to be done to keep an animal with its owner when it’s good for the animal. This has Aldwin helping owners get food and medical care for their pets, but sometimes it has him running to the pharmacy and mowing the lawn for an elderly pet owner. It also means going into neighborhoods where he’s been told not to go. “There are cases where I try to get to people before the police do,” he says. “Sometimes owners just need a hand, some pet food, or a little education. We can’t help everyone, but we can help the families and animals in our area. It’s a slow process, but we are changing entire neighborhoods.”
Words by: Robin Howard
Photos by: Melissa Toms