ATTN: Jennifer Stanonis

I am a Buffalonian now living in western Massachusettes and I am a tattoo artist. I saw your report about the Niagara Falls tattoo guy spreading disease. As a former tattoo shop owner in Buffalo I am well aware of the dangers of an uninformed artist through blatant disregard for a client or just ignorance to proper procedure. In any further coverage of this story I would like you to consider the following….In my years dealing with the Erie county health department I have found that they should be the ones to blame for allowing people like this artist to continue with their poor practices. In Past dealings with the health dept I have seen representitives themselves use unsafe practices and I am convinced that the entire staff is ill equipped to understand any wrong practice an artist makes until someone actually comes forth with a case of hepititis or other bloodborne pathogen, Given that they even show up to inspect shops at all.. wich was a big problem for me when I owned my shop and is still a problem today…..Can you blame a child for misbehaving if the parent knows nothing about proper parenting?

Most of the artists in western ny are very safe in their practices and there is a good network amongst us, so we keep on each other to make sure WE are doing the right thing. There have even been efforts in the past by groups of us to reform the requirements of tattoo shops in the county of Erie, as Niagara county HAS NO HEALTH DEPARTMENT! But we were met withopposition from the very people that are supposed to be the watchdogs of our regions health, with responses like “well that is just too much paperwork” Is it really too much to ask to have a county regulatory office to just do their job correctly? This is how people like John Portik III get away with being out there and doing tattoos in an unsafe manner.

To Understand the difference between how we as artists conduct ourselves and the powers that be (E.C.H.D) Id like to invite you to contact a man by the name of Dave Vidra ( He has been working with artists around the country for years bringing the latest tecniques to the artist so that they may be able to better protect themself and their clients this is a 6-8 hour course with a test and certification wich in my opinion supercedes the Erie county test 10 fold.

In closing I would like to stress that Although I am very happy to see you are exposing people in the community that can cause harm to others, I would also like to see you report on the responsibility that we as tattoo artists take upon ourselves in the absence of a properly working system to insure that our community stays safe and healthy.

thank you for your time

Mike Gutowski

(note from Scott: Niagara County DOES have a health department. They’re just useless)