HUNTER HERO: Sue Barker - video

NON-STOP: Sue Barker, with dog Digby, is on call for all our furry friends in need. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
NON-STOP: Sue Barker, with dog Digby, is on call for all our furry friends in need. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

AS the co-founder of Dog Rescue Newcastle, Sue Barker has heard all the jokes about the appropriateness of her last name.

But the jokes don't bother her one bit.

What does upset her is when people are cruel to animals.

The Warners Bay resident has been in animal rescue for 30 years, and since co-founding Dog Rescue Newcastle in May 2008, she has helped to save more than 4000 dogs.

"I grew up in a family that was passionate about animals and animal welfare," she said.

"Most pictures of me as a child were taken with a horse or a dog.

"I decided to try to change what I could for the animals I could, and to see them have better homes."

Barker's organisation rescues dogs destined to be euthanised from all over eastern NSW.

The dogs are placed into foster care with volunteers until the right owner comes along.

"I'm passionate about not only getting homes, but good homes for the animals," Ms Barker said.

"They've already come from a bad situation, and we want them to go to the best forever home.

"We offer dog training courses, and there is always someone at the end of a phone that can help people with a problem."

Ms Barker receives calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"I've had someone call me at 11 o'clock at night saying they have five or six poodle puppies they have to have out by tomorrow or they'll get evicted," she said.

"The guy actually brought the puppies over to me at 1 o'clock in the morning. I had my carers here meeting me out the front at 3am to take some of the puppies."

Dog Rescue Newcastle survives on community donations.

The organisation charges a re-homing fee for the dogs, but that rarely covers the vet fees.

"Our volunteers - the ones who do the fund-raising, the foster carers, the people who organise the foster carers, run the website - they are wonderful," Ms Barker said.

There are close to 80 foster carers involved in the organisation, but more were always welcome.

"Some carers will go away on holidays or have a baby, so you can have 20 out at any one time because of family commitments," Ms Barker said.

"The more foster carers we have, the more dogs we can save."

There had been many out-of-pocket expenses over the years.

"When we first started, my family and friends really supported me.

"Now we seem to get by. We would love to get more corporate support - people donating $5 a month or something, but it's gradually getting there," she said.

"At this stage, we're able to pay our vet bills. But our aim would be to have our own shelter. We need a benefactor out there.

"There has been a lot of change over the years - but there is still a lot further to go. Instead of the problem getting smaller, it's actually getting worse."

She said puppy farms were an issue, as well as backyard breeders who kept breeding animals to sell but didn't care about their welfare.

To support the cause, visit dogrescuenewcastle.com.au.