A DOG believed to have been stolen from an animal sanctuary has been found safe and well following a widespread social media appeal.

The one-year-old chihuahua cross, whose name is Buddy, went missing from Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, near Ramsbottom, yesterday afternoon.

Staff at the charity say that CCTV footage shows a car pulling up on a road next to the sanctuary and a man getting out.

They say that the man then proceeded to sneak Buddy out of his kennel, and hide him under his coat before leaving the site.

A member of the public witnessed the incident and managed to obtain images and details of the car.

Upon realising the dog was missing, staff at the charity contacted police before putting out an appeal on Facebook and Twitter.

The appeal paid off as just hours later Buddy was handed into Vets Now in Whitefield in the middle of the night.

The vets contacted Bleakholt who picked the dog up this morning.

Buddy had been at the sanctuary for two weeks after it was returned because of a change in circumstances at the home he was in.

He is scheduled to move in with new owners at the weekend.

Karen Weed, sanctuary manager at Bleakholt, said: “We are relieved Buddy has been returned to us safe and sound. It was heartbreaking for everyone involved at Bleakholt and Buddy seems none the worse for his ordeal.

“He is in really good health and is going to his new home on Saturday.

"We would like to thank all the people who shared the appeal and Vets Now for helping us getting him back.

“We are totally dismayed that someone would feel the need to steal one of the animals. We shall of course be reviewing our security arrangements.”

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Police said: "We did receive a report yesterday just before 3:20pm that an unknown offender had entered the sanctuary and picked up the dog before placing it in his coat. The offender left the scene in a car.

Following a plea on Facebook the dog was later recovered. No arrests have been made at this stage."