HOPE Week: Animal rescue shelter

The Yankees visited the New Beginning Animal Rescue on Wednesday (the photo in the background is of founder Pedro Rosario and King). New York Yankees

NEW YORK -- A photo greets you as soon as you enter the New Beginning Animal Rescue. It's a large shot that showcases NBAR founder Pedro Rosario embracing King, a black Great Dane. Rosario took King into his shelter last year after finding the dog nearly 30 pounds underweight for its age.

Rosario spent about three to four months helping King back to proper size and health, and after seven months, he finally found King a new home to share with another dog and a loving family.

"That's what we're all about," Rosario said. "Making sure these animals come, however they come, and we're able to help put them where they belong health wise, height wise, issues wise, and make sure they get the right home. That we're not going to get them back in six months or a year later."

To honor Rosario's efforts in the community, the Yankees spent time with him and the rescued animals Wednesday in the Castle Hill section of the Bronx as part of HOPE Week. NBAR is a nonprofit group that houses abused, stray and unwanted animals, and helps them find new homes where they can be cared for.

Outfielders Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki, reliever Shawn Kelley, and front-office staff brought food for the animals Wednesday and gave one dog a bath. Rosario threw out the first pitch before Wednesday's game against the Royals, and he set up an adoption station at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees presented Rosario with a $10,000 check to help his cause.

"The fact that he started something like this, that it's such an elaborate process to find homes for these animals, you can tell he truly loves dogs," Kelley said.

"Watching him interact with them, when one's getting hyper and crazy and he goes over and calms them down. You can tell he was meant to do this."

Rosario worked in animal control for 16 years before starting up NYC's Top Dog in 2011, and NBAR followed the next year. NYC's Top Dog, which provides services such as vaccination for animals, provides the financial backing for NBAR.

Donations also help in the cause, although Rosario still has to pay out of his pocket for some of the requisite services to run the animal rescue center.

There are currently 35 dogs and 50 cats in the shelter, although he said he usually has about 65 to 70 dogs. The animals come to the shelter in various ways, including being found on the street, being sent over from the city shelter or being surrendered by the owners. When new potential owners attempt to adopt the animals, he puts the prospective owner through a rigorous inspection to make sure it's a suitable home.

Rosario uses a staff of four employees and seven volunteers, and offers high school students the chance to volunteer at his shelter.

"Pedro, it's one of a kind," employee Abraham Lopez said. "Whatever he does, he does for the animals. Everything is devoted to animals in the 13 years I've known him."

On Wednesday, Rosario showed the Yankees around NBAR, which is located on Newbold Avenue in the East Bronx. The players visited the dog cages downstairs before heading upstairs to mingle with the cats. All three Yankees said they have dogs.

Rosario couldn't believe the Yankees swung by to see his operation.

"I was speechless. I couldn't say anything," Rosario said. "I was in shock -- I'm still in shock."