A horrific and heartbreaking tragedy struck a Pittsburgh Zoo exhibit when a two-year-old boy was killed after falling from the rail his mom placed him on to get a better view of the African painted dogs. According to president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Barbara Baker, it is unclear whether the boy died from the 11 to 14-foot fall or from being brutally mauled by the animals.
“It was very horrific,” said Lt. Kevin Kraus of the Pittsburgh police, who added that the dogs attacked “immediately” after the boy fell. Seven were called off by zookeepers while three were drawn away from the child. One was too aggressive and had to be shot, Yahoo! News reports. The dogs, considered to be an endangered species, are about as big as medium-sized domestic dogs, 2 to 2½ feet high and weighing 37 to 80 pounds (see photo above), according to the zoo. African wild dogs are also known as cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs, and painted wolves. Baker says that the animals “were in pack mentality” during the attack.
The zoo was immediately closed after the incident around noon Sunday (Nov. 4). Though the names of the boy and his mother were not released, the woman was reportedly 34-years-old and lived in Pleasant Hills, just outside of Pittsburgh. The father arrived at the scene just after police.
Baker said the Pittsburgh Zoo has never had a visitor death. No decision has been made yet on the future of the exhibit.
Our condolences go out to the boy’s family.