A two-year-old boy is dead after falling into an exhibit of rare African painted dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo Sunday.
Zoo President Barbara Baker told CNN the child fell off an observation deck about 14 feet above the exhibit and then the dogs killed him. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, police said the boy lost his balance after his mother lifted him pu to stand on the four-foot high wooden railing of a structure overlooking the enclosure.
He fell over the railing, hit a mesh shelf and landed on the ground, where the pack of wild dogs attacked him. Baker said:
Our emergency teams and our Pittsburgh police responded immediately, but there wasn’t anything that could be done.
A zookeeper moved seven of the 11 dogs out of the exhibit, and a veterinarian department member shot darts at the remaining dogs, but, the zoo said the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding.
African painted dogs, among the most endangered dog species in the world, are about the size of a small German shepherd. There are fewer than 5,000 of them left in the wild, said the zoo, which has a breeding program for the rare animals. The zoo introduced five of the young dogs at the zoo just last month, noting at the time that they are not tame animals, but are wild and run in a pack, even though the younger dogs were raised by hand after their mother died.
Zookeepers also entered the exhibit trying to lure the dogs away but couldn’t reach the little boy in time. Police shot and killed one aggressive dog.
The zoo and its affiliated PPG Aquarium are closed until further notice.