An animal rescue organization hopes to recover five pit bull puppies that were inside the organization’s van when it was stolen before dawn Tuesday in St. Paul.

The Rescue Pets Are Wonderful (RPAW) van was swiped about 5 a.m. in front of Liz Gigler’s home in the 1500 block of Christie Place, just east of Lake Phalen and near Larpenteur Avenue, she said.

Gigler said she’s not sure whether the thief wanted the van, the puppies or both. “For unaltered pit pups, they can go from $500 to $1,000 on the street,” she said.

The stolen van was recovered Tuesday night but the RPAW decals had been removed from it and everything inside was gone, according to a post on the RPAW Facebook site. “Unfortunately NO PUPS were recovered yet,” the post stated.

Gigler said she had just put the puppies in the van “when I was getting things ready to transport them to their foster home.”

The puppies have implanted microchips, making them identifiable, she added.

Also in the van were credit cards that were used after the theft, providing some evidence of where the van has been, Gigler said.

St. Paul police are investigating.