The man behind Buckwood Animal Sanctuary in Bradford was found dead at his home surrounded by his dogs.
Alan Littlewood, 69, was discovered by police after a friend became concerned because she had been unable to contact him by phone.
Long-time friend Sue Wood, of Doncaster, told the Telegraph & Argus, how she had been receiving daily texts from Mr Littlewood but these had ended causing her to alert the police.
“He told me he was not very well and that he was going to send me a text every day. For about three days up to April 1, I hadn’t heard anything.
“I kept texting him back but my gut instinct was that something was wrong. I rang the police to say I am very concerned about this man who lives in an isolated cottage.
“They found him dead, laid on the settee in the kitchen with his three dogs.
“I’m now trying to find out where those dogs have gone.”
A post-mortem examination has revealed Mr Littlewood died of pneumonia and Bradford coroners are now appealing for relatives to come forward.
Mr Littlewood had been served notice by Bradford Council, from whom he had rented his cottage in Buck Mill Lane, Thackley, since the mid-1980s, about a month ago.
He ran the dog rescue operation for more than 20 years and funded it out of his own pocket.
In 2009 he was found guilty of failing to offer proper care for the dogs he had taken in and was initially banned from keeping animals for life.
His conviction related to causing unnecessary suffering to a 14-year old collie by failing to obtain veterinary treatment. Later that same year the ban was lifted on appeal.
A spokesman for Bradford Council said: “Bradford Council does own Buck Wood Cottage and we were in the process of terminating Mr Littlewood’s tenancy but we were trying to find him more suitable alternative accommodation.”