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Dog caught in gorilla enclosure reunited with owner

San Diego Humane Society Officer Brandt with Meatball after he was rescued from the gorilla enclosure at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park on June 12. He has been reunited with his owner.
(San Diego Humane Society)

Meatball’s owners promise to keep him on a short leash

The dog that wandered into the gorilla enclosure at the San Diego Zoo’s Safari Park last week is back home after his owners claimed him from the San Diego Humane Society on Sunday.

The dog’s name is Meatball and was given a medical exam and neutered while held at the Humane Society. While it’s still not clear how Meatball managed to get into the enclosure, the Humane Society said his owner is taking steps to keep it from happening again.

Meatball, who was given the temporary name Mighty Joe Young by Humane Society staff members, somehow slipped into the gorilla habitat on June 12. Meatball wasn’t harmed, but the incident gave quite a scare to some park-goers who witnessed a gorilla briefly chasing him.

Video on YouTube shows park visitors trying to distract the gorilla by whistling and calling his name, Franklin. The incident got national attention with stories in Huffpost, USA Today and Inside Edition, which described the videos as harrowing.

Park officials prevented any possible danger to the dog by coaxing the two gorillas out of the enclosure and into a back area. Gorillas and other large animals at the park have been trained to respond to a bell that alerts them that a special treat is waiting in the back area.

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San Diego Humane Society officers rescued the dog once the gorillas were removed and transported him to their Escondido campus.

Kelli Schry, marketing and communications manager, said Meatball’s home is about a mile from the park, but his owners want to remain anonymous.

The Humane Society had reported calls about three dogs at the park on the same day Meatball got into the gorilla enclosure, but Schry said the other dogs do not belong to Meatball’s owners. Their whereabouts remain unknown.

Schry said Meatball’s owners have installed a trolley system in their backyard to allow him to run and explore the area, but hopefully keep him from visiting Safari Park again.


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