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By Farnoush Amiri and Phil Helsel

A prize-winning dog missing at Atlanta’s airport has been found, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines said Tuesday.

Gale, a pure-bred American Staffordshire Terrier, was boarding a flight Saturday at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta when she escaped, airport officials said.

The 22-month-old canine was with her handlers, heading back to Amsterdam — where her owners live — after competing at an event in Louisville, Kentucky, when security found her kennel empty.

The handlers checked Gale and another dog in for their KLM flight and went through security. Shortly after the handlers boarded the plane Saturday afternoon, security informed them that Gale was missing. The handlers immediately called her owners.

"KLM is glad to report that Gale has been found, and is in the process of being flown home to its owner,” the airline said in a statement Tuesday afternoon. "KLM thanks all involved in the search, including the Atlanta airport team."

KLM said in a statement earlier Tuesday that after they "conducted a thorough investigation," it was determined that the airport staff "improperly secured" the cage and that is how the dog was able to get loose.

The Atlanta airport also tweeted Tuesday afternoon that the show dog had been found. Earlier in the day, it said that the dog was spotted in an airfield thicket in the morning.

Wildlife biologist Jeff Miller said that the dog is in excellent condition. Officials said the animal was found in what is called the rock quarry between the airport’s center complex and two runways, where it may have been seeking water and cover.

Gale, a 22-month-old American Staffordshire terrier, has gone missing before flying home from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.Courtesy of Floris Van Essen

Before the dog was found, Andrew Gobeil, a spokesperson for Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, said that the entire airport has been on alert since Gale went missing.

"As soon as we heard about it, we started the search through our more than 4,600-acre airport," he said Tuesday.

Gobeil said Gale was last spotted Monday around 3:30 a.m.

Steven Boyd, wildlife biologist for the airport, said at a press conference Tuesday after the dog was found that dogs escaping are a rare occurrence.

“It’s great. It's such a relief that both the dog is happy, we're happy, the flying public is happy,” Boyd said. “It was a concern of ours for both the flying public and the dog. We're glad the dog is safe now and off the air field.”