THIEVES have stolen a dog from Wood Green Animal Shelters that was destined to become a Christmas present for a family with two young boys. The Godmanchester-based charity suffered at the hands of thieves at a time when it has record numbers of animals on

THIEVES have stolen a dog from Wood Green Animal Shelters that was destined to become a Christmas present for a family with two young boys.

The Godmanchester-based charity suffered at the hands of thieves at a time when it has record numbers of animals on its waiting list - some 650 pets whose owners have become victims of the global financial crisis.

The stolen Staffordshire terrier - called Grinch by Wood Green staff - had been taken to the shelter after he was found wandering as a stray in Ely three weeks earlier.

He had already been found a new home with a family in Corby.

But thieves scuppered the re-homing plan overnight on Thursday (January 2) by cutting through a wire security fence, breaking through two padlocks and smashing a glass door to get into the kennels.

Only Grinch was stolen.

He had been promised as a Christmas present to two little boys, Connor and Jordan Moore, aged 10 and eight, whose dad, Thomas, is seriously ill with a brain tumour. Mr Moore is his sons' sole carer.

He said: "When I was told there was a break-in and the dog had been stolen, I thought it must be a prank then I realised it was true and that out of all the dogs there, they had stolen this one.

"He was supposed to have come here to us on Saturday (January 3). The boys are distraught, shocked and gutted, when they heard the news it was the nearest thing to tears."

Mr Moore said Grinch was a lovely dog: "We took him for walks twice and we fell in love with him straight away."

Shelley Wooding, head of animal welfare at Wood Green Animal Shelters, told The Hunts Post: "Everyone is absolutely devastated and shocked that this has happened.

"Grinch is a wonderful little dog who had found a lovely home ready for the new year. We are desperate to find Grinch so that he can be reunited with his new owners."

She added: "Fortunately Grinch has been microchipped so if he is taken to a vet he will be easily identified."

A spokesman for Wood Green, which has been re-homing animals since 1924, added that just before Christmas there had been a record number of pets waiting to be taken into the shelter.

Nic Bacon said: "We had a really high waiting list for 650 animals on it. The shelter has spaces for 750 over our three sites (North London, Godmanchester and Heydon near Royston), so the waiting list was almost the capacity of the shelters."

Because the most common factor was not being able to afford vets fees, the shelters are advising pet owners to take out insurance. Other reasons were people losing their jobs or going into rented accommodation where pets were not allowed.

However, between December 20 and Boxing Day, the shelter had rehomed about 200 animals.

Linda Cantle, head of policy at Wood Green, added: "We can now gradually start contacting the owners of the animals that are on our waiting list. This will be a slow and steady procedure to enable us to maintain our standards of animal welfare and ensure each and every animal that comes in receives the best care and attention from the staff here at Wood Green."

Across East Anglia, there are fears that unwanted pets could be dumped in streets and fields as the credit crunch bites deeper.

INFORMATION: If you have any information about the whereabouts of Grinch contact Wood Green Animal Shelters on 0844 248 8181.