Police found a 9-year-old boy locked in a kennel outside his US home.
When law enforcement officers arrived at the property in Lexington, North Carolina, the boy reportedly told them he had been living in the kennel since April.
He has a small amount of food in his cage, some clothing, but no blanket – the temperature is -2C (35.6F).
The sheriff’s deputy broke into the kennel and the child was taken to hospital in Winston-Salem. He was assessed and released the same day.
The child’s father Jonathan Starr, his stepmother Sarah Starr and her aunt Shelley Barnes – who own the property – were all arrested and charged with child abuse and false imprisonment.
Ms Barnes also faces charges of “use of the residence for a controlled substance”.
All three are being held at the Davidson County Jail on $100,000 bail.
“I’ve been in law enforcement for 36 years and this is the first time I’ve seen something so important,” said local Sheriff Rich Simmons.
Mr Simmons said an anonymous person called 911 just before 7am on October 19 and told them about the boy. When they found him, he said he was there all night.
Police found two other children at the scene – in the house – and two other children in primary school.
All are now under the care of social services.
“We believe this has been going on for some time,” a spokesman for the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department said in a news release.
Sheriff Simmons added: “That’s why we enforce the law. We fight for those who can’t fight.”