A rescue dog who arrived at a Michigan animal rescue centre with broken legs, ribs and a stomach full of carpet has been hailed a hero for saving the life of a three-year-old girl.

Peanut arrived at the Delta Animal Shelter in a terrible state last April, but was given a new lease of life after her former owner was convicted of animal abuse. The three-year-old was adopted by a new, loving family in Escanaba, Michigan.

On Monday 20 March, the usually quiet Peanut began to run around her new home barking and yelping, before alerting her owners that she wanted to go outside. She ran to the field behind the house at full speed, followed by her confused owner.

To their shock, they discovered a naked three-year-old girl curled in a ball in a ditch. Wrapping the child in a jumper, the man brought her inside and rang the police. By the time the ambulance and police arrived, the little girl could only say one thing – "doggie".

The owners informed the animal shelter about Peanut's incredible story in an email, who posted it on their Facebook page.

"Thanks to Peanut, a little girls life was saved today. She has been such a blessing to us, and now to others. Words cannot express how grateful we are that we have Peanut in our lives and how amazing she is," the owners wrote.

"She is a part of our family now and thanks to wonderful people like you at the shelter, she is alive. Without her, not only would she have been gone from this world, but the life of this little girl might have been taken as well."

Former Abused Shelter Dog now Local HeroPetunia arrived at the shelter last April with 2 broken legs, a belly full of...

Posted by Delta Animal Shelter on Monday, March 20, 2017

"I think she still has some 'sixth sense' about her past life that she has carried with her," Peanut's owners added.

The Delta County Sheriff's Office released a statement later that day: "Deputies from the Delta County Sheriff's Office responded to the Rapid River area for the report of a three-year-old girl found lying naked in a ditch. The temperature at the time was approximately 32 degrees.

"A citizen was alerted to the child's presence by his dog. The citizen then located the girl and wrapped her in his shirt and rushed her back to his residence in attempt to warm the child."

The uninjured child was then taken to hospital while the police attempted to locate her family.

"The parents were eventually located at a nearby residence. Further investigation unveiled unsafe and unsanitary living conditions at the residence," the sheriff's office reported.

"Child Protective Services was contacted and the found girl along with another young female were eventually removed from the residence. The case has been sent to the Delta County Prosecutor's Office for review."