'Mighty Joe Young' Dog Returns Home After Ordeal in Zoo's Gorilla Enclosure

A dog, who was rescued after wandering into a gorilla enclosure at San Diego Zoo Safari Park, has been reunited with his owner.

On June 12, San Diego Humane Society's Humane Officers were called after a dog entered the animal facility and found himself in the park's gorilla enclosure.

Alone, the dog was not spotted until he was seen inside the enclosure with the primates. As soon as zoo staff saw the canine, they moved the gorillas out, and before long three Humane Officers moved in and safely leashed the lost pup.

One of two domesticated dogs spotted in the park that day, park officials said that they still do not know how one of them made its way into the gorilla enclosure.

Meatball the dog and gorilla
A picture of Meatball the dog with Officer Brandt from San Diego Humane Society, left, and a file photo of a silverback gorilla, right. After gaining worldwide attention following a trip to the zoo, Meatball the dog has been reunited with his family. San Diego Humane Society & Cheryl Ramalho/Getty Images

The male shepherd had no microchip and was dubbed "Mighty Joe Young" by the shelter. After a veterinary exam by San Diego Humane Society's Dr. Brie Sarvis, several ticks were removed and he was given his vaccines and a clean bill of health.

Thankfully unharmed, the ordeal had the potential to have a very different ending. While Gorillas aren't generally aggressive, they can be unpredictable—particularly when males are fighting for dominance in a social group or if they feel threatened.

Silverback gorillas often stand at around 4-6 feet tall and weigh on average between 290 and 485 lbs. Able to reach speeds of 25 mph, the average gorilla is thought to be around 15 times stronger than a human.

Very easy to handle, the nervous but friendly dog captured hearts on social media where his adventure was shared on TikTok and made headlines around the world.

On Monday, 20 June, San Diego Humane Society informed Newsweek that the dog's owners had come forward, and the pup—actually named Meatball—was returning home.

They said: "Meatball was first cleared medically and neutered by San Diego Humane Society veterinarians, and now we're so happy to see him return home."

Since returning home, Meatball's owners have fitted their yard with a trolley system so that he can run and explore without the risk of wandering off again in the future.

Following Meatball's adventure, San Diego Humane Society issued a warning to pet owners and said: "It's so important to take precautions to ensure a quick reunion if your pets ever become lost. Make sure your pets have collars with contact information tags and that your dogs are licensed."

San Diego Humane Society is also currently offering $15 microchipping clinics at its campuses in El Cajon, Escondido, Oceanside, and San Diego through June 30, 2022; Tuesday – Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.