Pongo and Missis Pongo (or simply Missis) are a pair of Dalmatians who live with the newly married Mr. and Mrs. Dearly and their two nannies, Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler. Mr. Dearly is a "financial wizard" who has been granted lifelong tax exemption and lent a house on the Outer Circle in Regent's Park in return for wiping out the government debt. The dogs consider the humans their pets, but allow the humans to think that they are the owners.
Missis gives birth to a litter of 15 puppies. Concerned that Missis will not be able to feed them all, the humans join in to help. Mrs. Dearly looks for a canine wet nurse, and finds an abandoned liverspotted Dalmatian in the middle of the road in the pouring rain. She has the dog treated by a vet and names her Perdita ("lost"). Perdita later tells Pongo about her lost love and the circumstances that led to her abandonment.
Mr. and Mrs. Dearly attend a dinner party hosted by Cruella de Vil, an intimidating and very wealthy woman fixated on fur clothing. The Dearlys are disconcerted by her belief that all animals are worthless and should be drowned. Shortly after the dinner party, the puppies disappear. The humans fail to trace them but through the "Twilight Barking", a forum of communication in which dogs can relay messages to each other across the country, the dogs manage to track them down to "Hell Hall", the ancestral home of the de Vil family in Suffolk. Pongo and Missis try to relate the puppies' location to the Dearlys but fail. The dogs decide to run away and find them themselves, leaving Perdita to look after the Dearlys. After a journey across the countryside, they meet the Colonel, an Old English Sheepdog who shows them Hell Hall and tells them its history. They learn that there are 97 puppies in Hell Hall, including Pongo and Missis' own 15.
Cruella de Vil appears and tells the crooks in charge of Hell Hall to slaughter and skin the dogs as soon as possible because of the publicity surrounding the theft of the Dearlys' puppies. Pongo and Missis devise a plan to rescue all of the puppies and escape the day before Christmas Eve. One puppy, Cadpig, is too weak to walk the long distance from Suffolk to London so Tommy, the Colonel's two-year old pet, lends her a toy carriage. When the carriage loses a wheel, they rest on the hassocks of a country church. Cruella almost finds them, but the dogs manage to escape in a removal van. Having rolled in soot to disguise themselves, they hide in the darkness of the van with the help of a Staffordshire terrier whose pets are the drivers of the van.
Upon arriving in London, the dogs destroy Cruella's collection of animal skins and fur coats with the aid of Cruella's abused cat. The Dalmatians then return home. Once the dogs roll around to remove the soot from their coats, the Dearlys recognise them and send out for steaks to feed them.
Cruella's cat visits to say Cruella has fled from Hell Hall. It has been put up for sale and Mr Dearly buys it with money he has been given by the government for sorting out another tax problem. He proposes to use it to start a "dynasty of Dalmatians" (and a "dynasty of Dearlys" to take care of them). Finally, Perdita's lost love, Prince, returns. His pets see his love for Perdita and allow him to stay with the Dearlys and become their 101st Dalmatian.
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