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We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers and I for one love working in a place where most of the offices have at least one dog stretched out in the middle of the floor.

So when I heard Thursday evening’s heartbreaking news about at least 50 dogs dying in a blaze at Manchester Dogs’ Home, I was not surprised when dozens of people came forward to offer emergency shelter for the surviving dogs, as well as donations of more than £500,000 for food and bedding.

Their generosity and speed in leaping to assist the dogs has gone some way to help reduce the horror that this was caused by a suspected arsonist.

We’ll have to wait for an investigation to see if it was arson and a court case to find out who’s responsible.

People who specifically target the vulnerable are the lowest of the low.

Those who rob pensioners in their own homes, for example, or who abuse children in any physical or mental way.

And I’ll bet this one will be one of the most commented-on court cases when it does make it there.

Why? Because animals can’t defend themselves from humans, not when they’re shut in cages.

They were also in the dogs’ home patiently waiting to be part of a new family, to become its extra member, to be loved and to love in return.

And that’s why it’s so horrifying.

They couldn’t get out, they had done nothing wrong, and they were waiting for a better life.

If it was arson, then this was murder, pure and simple.

Dogs are brilliant – you only have to ask those who rely on them to help them see or hear, or those for whom having a dog means they get back their independence.

I’ll be pounding the streets of Portsmouth in the Great South Run next month for Canine Partners, which is a charity which does just that.

I chose that charity to raise funds for because when I met the people whose lives had, in some cases, been saved by having a helper dog, I was moved close to tears.

The only thing they want to do is please us. And all we need to do in return is take care of them.