MEMPHIS, Tenn. – If there's one place to avoid while on the lam in a zoo it's the tiger pit. One stray dog learned that lesson the hard way and was recovering Wednesday from puncture wounds to its neck and shoulders.
"This is one lucky animal," Memphis Zoo spokesman Brian Carter said of the dog.
The 50-pound female retriever mix darted inside a service entrance to the zoo on Tuesday and led workers on a brief chase before it bolted over a 4-foot-high visitors railing and a retaining wall at the tiger exhibit.
She swam across a 12-foot-wide moat to the interior of the exhibit and was quickly attacked by a 225-pound female Sumatran tiger. The open exhibit's main walls are 18 feet high.
"The exhibit is designed to keep the animals from getting out but not for keeping animals from getting in," zoo spokesman Brian Carter said. "You can jump off a cliff but you can't jump up a cliff."
Zoo workers, who were close on the dog's trail, used fireworks and air horns to distract the two tigers in the exhibit and get them into their night enclosures behind the exhibit's viewing area.
One tiger, born in captivity, had the dog in her grasp for several minutes, Carter said.
"She didn't have the experience of live hunting, but she certainly had the instincts," he said.
After emergency treatment by zoo veterinarians, the dog was taken to the Animal Emergency Medical Center in Memphis, where she was reported in good condition Wednesday.
"She's resting comfortably," said clinic manager Clarita Atkinson. "She's fairly unscathed for the amount of damage that could have been done."
The dog was wearing a collar that did not include an address, Carter said, and zoo officials were trying to find the animal's owner. The zoo is in a large park in a residential area of the city.