DRACUT — Police say one of their canine officers prevented a potential tragedy when he and his dog found a missing 18-year-old man with autism in a wooded area behind his home late Thursday night.

Interim police Chief Neil Ouellette said officers were called to Willard Street Thursday at 10:13 p.m., when the autistic man was reported missing. The exact address of the home was not released.

Officers Jake Malandrino, Alex Gorman, Sgt. James Quealy and Officer Zack Coleman and his canine partner, Viper, all began searching for the man as the North Eastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council’s canine unit was called for assistance.

Coleman and Viper found the missing man in a thickly wooded area behind the man’s home near a creek about 11:30 p.m. The 18-year-old was suffering from exposure and was taken to Lowell General Hospital’s Saints Campus for treatment, according to Ouellette.

“Given the weather, driving rain and darkness, Officer Coleman and Viper did an exceptional job locating the young man, clearly preventing a potential tragedy,” Ouellette said in a press release.

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