Tenn. Bloodhound Helps Find Missing 6-Year-Old Girl Who Was Allegedly Abducted by Her Father in May
A dog from the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office in Tennessee is being hailed a hero after helping locate a 6-year-old girl who had been missing since May.
Fred the bloodhound tracked the missing girl to a barricaded outbuilding in DeKalb County on Friday, nearly a month after the child was allegedly abducted by her father, authorities said.
The girl, who PEOPLE is not naming because she is a minor, was last seen by a family member on May 26, according to the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators called Fred in after using thermal imaging and drones to narrow down a possible location of the girl in her father's property in the Pea Ridge Community area.
The bloodhound was able to track down the missing child after authorities "obtained an item belonging to the father and allowed Fred to smell it," the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office said in a statement on Monday.
"They traveled to the home and released Fred who followed a foot path from the home to a burn pile, a truck and an outbuilding," the statement read. "He sniffed the door and door knob, then sat down indicating he found the father."
According to DeKalb County Sheriff Patrick Ray, both the child and her father were located inside the outbuilding, which "was barricaded and the windows had been covered up with metal."
"There was no ventilation and air conditioning inside the small outbuilding. There was barely any food or water for the child," Ray said in a statement. "The outbuilding had a strong ammonia smell where the two had been urinating and defecating in a five gallon bucket."
The father, who PEOPLE will also not be naming, was arrested on one count of child abuse and neglect. He also had warrants for failure to appear and custodial interference, according to authorities.
The child was released into the custody of Tennessee Department of Children's Services.
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Ray said the girl was previously removed from the custody of her father after the two were found camped out under a bridge in March. Authorities later learned that the dad had driven his Nissan Rogue off the road and into a creek, where it got stuck, according to Ray.
At the time, the father was arrested for child abuse and neglect and the girl was placed into the temporary custody of a family member by the Department of Children's Services, Ray said.
The dad was given approval by the DCS to live in the same home as the girl after his release from jail, according to Ray.
DCS contacted law enforcement officials on June 21 after the department was granted custody of the child but was unable to locate her.
On Monday, Fred's handler, Rutherford County Sheriff's Deputy Richard Tidwell, said in a statement that the dog has been rewarded with a feast of chicken and pizza crusts for helping track down the missing girl.
"He licked her face and she gave him a big hug," Tidwell recalled of Fred finding the child in a statement.
"I praised him and loved on him," Tidwell added. "I pulled the chicken reward out of my pocket. He ate the chicken and wanted to meet other people as if to say, 'Look what I've done.' "