Family pets protect Down syndrome boy

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A FAMILY'S pet dogs helped keep safe a four-year-old Down syndrome boy who went missing overnight on NSW's mid-north coast.

Cold and covered in scratches, Riley Martin was found sitting on the ground in bushland near Shelley Beach just after 7am today.

He and his three pet dogs – two fox terriers and a kelpie – hadn't been seen since midday yesterday when he disappeared from his home in Nambucca Heads.

A couple from Kempsey saw an appeal for assistance on NSW Police's Facebook page and immediately drove to the area to help with the search.

They found Riley this morning with one of his dogs.

"We heard a dog bark, we almost stood on him," the unnamed couple told the Nine Network.

"He was covered in scratches and cold."

A man ran down a nearby street yelling "we have found him" to the boy's mother Bianca.

Footage of an emotional reunion showed Ms Martin grabbing hold of Riley and collapsing to the ground.

"Has he had water?" she asked.

"He's been through the bush. Those dogs kept him alive. Words can't describe it."

The boy was checked by paramedics and taken to Macksville Hospital as a precaution, police said.

Police, emergency services workers, volunteers and neighbours had scoured the area around Riley's home until Wednesday night. Local police kept searching overnight.

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