Pittsburgh zoo officials say a 3-year-old boy was killed Sunday after falling into an exhibit and getting mauled by African painted dogs.
Tracy Gray of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium told the Associated Press it was unclear whether the little boy died from the fall or from the attack, which happened around 11:45 a.m. Sunday.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported a Pittsburgh police officer shot and killed one of the 11 dogs in the exhibit.
Zoo president and CEO Barbara Baker told the newspaper the boy was visiting with his mother when he fell over a railing and off a mesh barrier into the exhibit.
Visitors told zoo staff members, who immediately responded along with police officers. Zookeepers were able to quickly draw seven of the dogs away but four remained, leaving staff unable to reach the boy.
“Unfortunately, the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding,” a news release said.
Three more dogs were eventually drawn away, but one “aggressive” dog would not leave and was shot and killed by an officer, the Post-Gazette reported.
“It’s clear that the dogs did attack the child, but whether he died of the attack or the fall has yet to be determined,” Baker told the Associated Press.
The zoo described the dogs as the size of medium-sized domestic dogs, 2 to 2 1/2 feet high and 37 to 80 pounds. They are considered endangered and are also known as cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs and painted wolves.
Police and the Allegheny County medical examiner’s office are investigating.
The facility has been shut down until further notice and Baker told the Post-Gazette no decision had been made about the exhibit’s future. It was the first visitor death the zoo had had.
In May, nine of the 11 dogs caused a brief zoo shutdown when they escaped part of their enclosure into an area that’s usually closed.