THE couple behind the UK’s only Dalmatian sanctuary have been forced close – and are now looking for a new home.
Sue Bell, 54, runs the rescue centre alongside partner Dave Haywood, 56, where they live with 31 dogs.
They treat the rehomed pooches like “kids” - letting them live inside their converted stable and allowing them on sofas and beds.
But they are now making an urgent plea for help to find a new home for their family - as their isolated location has become “uninhabitable”.
DAS Dalmatians is currently based just outside Newton Abbott, – or the ‘middle of nowhere’, as they describe it.
The property gets flooded every time it rains, and the roads are so bad the emergency services cannot reach it.
Sue said: ‘We live in a stable that is down a bridleway. No one will deliver anything.
‘‘A few weeks ago we had an electrical fire, and we were very lucky that Dave and I were awake otherwise who knows what could have happened.’’
The couple were forced to stop taking in new dogs last month due to the state of their premises.
But they want to keep to continue on their mission to help Dalmatians, so they are now appealing for dog-friendly potential landlords to get in touch.
Sue got her first spotty dog from a rescue centre back in the mid 90s, but had to return it when her marriage ended.
The centre’s policy was to not give updates - which her heart - so she made a vow to “help people one day and let them know their dogs were cared for”.
It started a fascination for their ‘unique nature’ – prompting Sue and Dave to house 31 dogs.
The couple live in a triple stable, with a kitchen, two bedrooms, a bathroom and a lounge - which is usually filled with Dalmatians.
And life with a pack of dogs is tough - as it means getting up before sunrise to let the dogs out into their field.
Sue said: “Biscuit likes to sing to us at 5:30am every morning until one of us gets up and let’s him onto our bed.
‘Thankfully he’s the only one that does that!’
The dogs don’t live in kennels or cages - instead lounging about on the beds and sofas around their converted stable home.
Dinnertime consists of shovelling out 15kg of dog biscuits every day, with Sue on hand to make sure every dog gets enough.
Sue, a full-time dog mum, said: “Life with these dogs is madness - but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
‘You have to be dotty to have so many spotties! I’ve always loved dogs but I love dalmatians because they are different.
‘I do this work because because I want to help – every old or end of life dog deserves to spend the rest of it’s days being loved in comfort and to leave this earth with kindness and dignity.
‘Dalmatians are a very different breed to any other and it is my way of paying back for having to rehome my Milly and helping others to go through it.’
The first dog the couple helped was a six-month-old puppy who was being sold as part of a drug deal.
Sue said: ‘The poor little mite was very skinny, dirty and stunk of smoke. We have been asked to help more and more dogs over the years and have never wanted to stop.’
The couple have saved more than 400 dogs since they opened their sanctuary in 2016.
‘We are requested to help Dalmatians by the public, vet practices, other rescues, APHA, social workers, family members whose relatives can’t cope anymore – the list goes on,’ Sue added.
The couple rehome the Dalmatians that are able to live a normal life after being assessed and rehabilitated, but take in the ‘kids’ that cannot be rehomed.
‘These pups stay with us forever being loved and having the best we can give them,’ she said.
‘We also help dogs that other rescues say no to.
‘If a dog needs our help, I will do whatever I can do to help if we have room but sadly at the moment, we can not help dogs that are threatened to be euthanised as we do not have room to keep them separated while being assessed.’
Their youngest dog currently is Bobby, a six-month-old puppy.
Sue said: ‘He was caught hidden in a coach coming in from an non-EU country, was seized and not claimed and APHA asked us if we could help.
‘He’s gone through 3 months of absolute hell.
‘We’ve paid his £2,200 quarantine bill and his £250 transport bill to get him to us from Dover – and all money to save him was donated by our wonderful DAS family of supporters in 2 days.
‘We have an amazing following and feel so lucky.’
The eldest of their doggy team are Zakky and Zena, aged 13 who have been with Sue for two years.
The pair are brother and sister whose owner died and left them on their own.
Sue said: “Zakky has a long bite history and bit Dave on meeting him - which can happen quite often with new problem kids.
‘Zakky took a while to realise he didn’t have to bite anymore and now is one of the family and very loving.
“Zena now has dementia but still knows how to con her Dad into sharing his food with her!
“We stopped them from being separated - another rescue was going to split them up but they were 11 years old, it would have been awful for them to do that so they came here.’
When asked who her favourite pooch was, Sue said: ‘We have no favourites – they are all very different and very lovable.
‘Mouse – one of our deaf boys with piercing blue eyes and a remarkable ‘wonky’ ear is our mascot, not because he is favourite but because he is unusual.’
They need to find a new home soon so they can take more dogs - and ideally one that is in a more suitable location, more easily accessible for food deliveries and vet visits.
Sue said: ‘There are no kennels and as the dogs are free range, they are very happy and don’t bark.
‘Keeping them in a home environment is much better for their well-being.
‘We live in a stable that is down a bridleway. No one will deliver anything.
‘We are on the side of a valley, so every time it rains it floods us. The roof has holes in it so we are exposed to the elements.
‘In summer it is so dusty – I get such bad chest infections.
“The road is so narrow and bumpy that emergency services are also unable to reach us.
‘‘On Sunday we had an electrical fire, and we were very lucky that Dave and I were awake otherwise who knows what could have happened.’’
Sue added: ‘People don’t realise that the dogs are so quiet because they don’t live in kennels - they don’t make a noise!
“We have so many wonderful dogs that need our care, a huge mixture of ages - and we don’t want them to live in mud anymore.’’
Sue and Dave, who run the sanctuary full-time, are ideally after a long term let, within a few hours drive of Morecambe Bay, Lancs., in a rural setting with at least an acre of land and a yard.