by Photo courtesy of the San Diego Humane Society

The dog nicknamed “Mighty Young Joe” after sneaking into the gorilla enclosure at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park a week ago was reunited with its owners on Sunday, and announced by the San Diego Humane Society. 

The one-and-a-half-year-old Shepard is actually named Meatball. His owners wish to remain anonymous. 

The San Diego Zoo Safari Park spotted Meatball in the ape enclosure on June 12 and called San Diego Humane Society humane officers for assistance. According to a zoo staff report, the gorillas watched the dog warily. 

Video footage posted on Social Media by visitors of the Safari Park shows a frightened stray Shepard chased around by one of the gorillas in the enclosure. The gorilla did not appear close enough to inflict harm, but it did chase the Shepard to the enclosure’s rocky ledge. 

Safari park staff used safety recall procedures to relocate the gorillas as San Diego Humane Society officers leashed Meatball and transported him to the organization's Escondido campus for evaluation. 

“The dog was very easy, sweet, a nice dog. Very easy to the leash,'' said SDHS officer Samantha Clark, who responded to the call. “He was incredibly lucky that he did not get any injuries from his encounter.''

Neither the dog nor the gorillas sustained injuries from the incident, SDHS and Safari Park staff reported.

Meatball received a veterinary exam from the San Diego Humane Society's Dr. Brie Sarvis and found several ticks but in good condition. The dog received all of his vaccines.

He was placed on a stray hold four-day period for the owner to come forward at the SDHS’s Escondido campus. He was first cleared medically and neutered by SDHS veterinarians before his family reclaimed him.

According to an SDHS spokesperson, Meatball's family was able to fit their yard with a trolley system so he's able to run and explore without the risk of wandering from home again in the future. 

"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," the SDHS spokeswoman said. 

San Diego Humane Society is also 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. To learn more, visit

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