Will Bronx’s Only No-Kill Shelter Survive?

Pedro Rosario, owner of New Beginnings Animal Rescue  and NYC Top Dog Kennel holds Pee-Wee, a small chihuahua.

Pedro Rosario, owner of New Beginnings Animal Rescue and NYC Top Dog Kennel holds Pee-Wee, a small chihuahua.

Jordan, a 70-year-old Golden Retriever lies in his cage quietly at the NYC Top Dog Inc. and New Beginnings Animal Rescue in Castle Hill, Bronx. His fur, the color of rust, grows on his back in patches. The animal, now battling multiple health complications including kidney stones, has been a resident at the shelter for over two years since a previous owner boarded him at the kennel and left him there.

Jordan is just one of the animals housed in the part-animal shelter, part-kennel, a place where as many as 80 dogs and 70 cats have lived under its roof at one time. Jordan and the other animals will not be put to sleep here, no matter how long they live here, or how old or sick they become. Unlike many other shelters in the city, this facility does not euthanize any of the animals under its care. This is the only no-kill animal shelter in the Bronx, but now the shelter is in jeopardy of being closed down because of an increase in rent.

“It’s going to hurt if we have to close our doors because they are [all] going to be put to sleep,” said Pedro Rosario, the shelter’s founder. “Some dogs aren’t adoptable, because they are biters or have bad behavior.”

The shelter takes in cats and dogs that are dropped off at the shelter, abandoned on the streets, or temporarily boarded at the NYC Top Dog Kennel and never picked up. Eventually, some of them get adopted, even Tank, an abandoned American bulldog, the shelter’s longest resident, who left the shelter after three years. The animals are able to stay at NYC Top Dog and New Beginnings, without facing the possibility of death, as long as the facility has the space.

The shelter is in jeopardy of closing because of rising rent.

The shelter is in jeopardy of closing because of rising rent.

Rosario, a former Animal Care and Control manager for over 20 years, decided to open his own shelter and kennel services in November 2010 after he began to feel guilty about having to euthanize animals just because a shelter was becoming too full or because an animal was aging or could not get adopted.

“It sucked. So many animals that are happy and healthy get euthanized. There’s no space, they get euthanized,” he said. “It gets to you after a while.”

At the facility he opened, Rosario does whatever he can to keep animals from this fate. Rosario tries to work with the animals at his shelter and train those with bad behavior in order to increase their chances of adoption. He admits, however, that some animals will probably never be adopted. This is why it is important for him to keep his shelter open.

The shelter operates with donations and fees accumulated from kennel services and boarding rates, but the money coming in is simply not enough to cover the $4,000 per month rent that the facility is now charged. Although the shelter is hanging by a thread, Rosario said, it is still surviving.

It is one of a handful of no-kill shelters in New York City. Others include Brooklyn Animal Resource Coalition in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Animal Haven in Little Italy in Manhattan.

The Bronx shelter, housed in a large building with mint green and gray cement walls, takes up more than half of the block. It is open seven days a week and currently houses 15 small dogs, 32 large dogs and 43 cats.

Rosario has three full time employees—and lots of interns from five different high schools in the Bronx, including the Cooke Center for disabled students.

Despite the help, Rosario who has three dogs at home, comes in seven days a week and makes sure the animals are taken care of, being walked, fed and given any medication if needed.

“I don’t have a personal life,” he said.

With the possibility of closure in the immediate future, Rosario has been working diligently to come up with a solution to keep the shelter open. The best option for the shelter is to find a new, smaller location where the rent would be cheaper.

If the shelter would have to close all of the dogs would have to go to t Animal Care and Control, said Matthew Vega, the manager of New Beginnings.  “But it’s a kill shelter, so there would be a 50-50 chance that they would get put down.”