A young boy fell into an African painted dog exhibit at a Pittsburgh zoo and was mauled to death by the wild animals, zoo officials said.
The child, about 3 years old, was with his mother visiting theÂ Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium when he somehow fell from a 14-foot-high observation deck into the exhibit at about 11:45 a.m. He was immediately attacked by several dogs and died, zoo President and CEO Barbara Baker said.
The zoo quickly moved visitors into buildings as animal keepers tried to coax the dogs into an off-exhibit area.Â Many of the 11 dogs in the exhibit moved away immediately, and several others were scared away from the child by the zookeepers. A remaining dog would not leave the child, and a Pittsburgh police officer shot the animal.
Baker pointed out these types of dogs typically hunt in packs, so this behavior is not considered unusual.
No visitors on the observation deck saw the child fall into the exhibit, Baker said.
The zoo was closed for the day while police and zoo officials investigate.
African painted dogs, also known as African wild dogs, Cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs, and painted wolves, are found in the open plains and sparse woodlands of sub-Saharan Africa. The long-legged canines have only four toes per foot.
According to the zoo’s website, African painted dogs are the size of medium domestic dogs, weighing on average between 37 and 80 pounds and measuring 24 to 30 inches high.
The dogs are classified as an endangered species.
Last spring, nine of the 11 painted dogs escaped a section of their enclosure, causing a brief shutdown of the zoo. The dogs were coaxed back into their exhibit area with food. No one was hurt.
Source: NBC News