A piranha kept as a pet by a Maine Township family bit off the fingertip of an 18-month-old toddler who had stuck her hand in the family's fish tank, authorities said Friday.
The incident occurred about 9 p.m. Tuesday on the 9400 block of Bay Colony Drive, said Frank Bilecki, a spokesman with the Cook County Sheriff's Office.
The toddler's parents originally thought the family's pit bull had nipped off the girl's fingertip, but after she was transported to nearby Lutheran General Hospital in Park Ridge, an emergency room doctor recognized it wasn't a dog bite, Bilecki said.
"We talked to the mom and asked what else could it be? She quickly said two piranhas were right in the vicinity of where she was playing," Bilecki said. "We know piranhas can bite."
Officers contacted the girl's father who was still at the apartment, and his "paternal instincts" kicked in, Bilecki said.
"He grabbed one of the piranhas, cut it open, and the fingertip was still there. He got it on ice and got it (to the hospital) quickly," Bilecki said.
Officials said Friday they were unsure if doctors were able to reattach the girl's fingertip.
No charges had been filed against the parents, and a check with the state Department of Children and Family Services showed there was no evidence of any previous wrongdoing by the parents, Bilecki said.
"The parents were truly, truly distraught about this," he said.