Pittsburgh, PA, United States (4E) – A three-year-old boy died late Sunday morning after tumbling down into the cage of a Pennsylvania zoo’s African wild dog exhibit.
According to zoo officials, the incident happened around 11:48 a.m. when the child, who was with his mother, fell around 14 feet from an observation area of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
It was reported that after eleven dogs attacked the boy, zookeepers fired darts into the pack to keep them away. Most of the dogs have been called off except for one who refused to move away from the boy and was shot dead.
Barbara Baker, head of the zoo, said “It is with great sadness and very, very heavy hearts that we report today that a small child was killed by our African painted dog pack this morning.”
She revealed that the dogs pounced on the boy, but “whether he died of the attack or the fall has yet to be determined”.
Baker added the staff turned into emergency response code after being quickly notified by visitors “but unfortunately, the boy has passed away by the time they were able to get to him.”
Zoo officials said the African wild dog exhibit has been up since 2006 and there were no reported issues with the dogs since then.
The zoo, which was evacuated immediately after the attack, will remain closed while police and the zoo are investigating the incident.
There has been no decision made about the future of the enclosure.
African painted dogs are considered endangered. Also known as African wild dogs, they are size of medium domestic dogs, weighing between 37 and 80 pounds, and they could grow between two to three feet tall. They hunt in packs and small groups.