PATERSON - Two pit bulls rescued from a dogfighting ring have been stolen from an animal shelter in Passaic County.

The theft occurred either early Tuesday or late Monday.

Paterson animal control officer John DeCando tells News 12 New Jersey that holes were cut in the shelter's outside fence and the dogs' cages. DeCando says the dogs were targeted.

"It's the same dogs the men were arrested for a couple weeks ago, for dogfighting in Paterson," DeCando says.

The dogs were rescued May 1 from a dogfight in a building on 16th Street in Paterson. One man was charged with animal fighting, and two others were charged with animal cruelty.

DeCando says the pit bulls are friendly toward people but "deadly toward other dogs."

SPCA officials say the dogs were likely stolen by people connected with the dogfighting ring that was busted.

"They stole the two dogs that were their prize dogs," says Robert Boyle, of the Passaic County SPCA. "They are very expensive, probably worth $10,000 each."

The dogs are both black/gray male pit bulls between 45 and 50 pounds.

Paterson animal control wants the dogs back so they can be properly cared for and put up for adoption.

"This here is a safe haven for them. We are trying to find a home for these dogs so they are not euthanized," says DeCando. "It rips me apart. We need to find the person who did this."

Paterson police are now reviewing surveillance video from outside the animal shelter.  They are also questioning the victim of a robbery that occurred nearby, possibly by the dog thieves.  

One of the other dogs rescued during the dogfighting bust, the "bait dog," is still recovering. He should be put up for adoption Wednesday.