A 2-year-old boy was killed at the Pittsburgh zoo after falling into the African painted dog exhibit. Major Crimes Lt. Kevin Kraus said the boy’s 34-year-old mother placed the child in a standing position on a wooden railing overlooking the enclosure.
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“Almost immediately after that he lost his balance, fell down off the railing into the actual pit and he was immediately attacked by 11 dogs,” Lt. Kraus said.
The incident occurred at 11:48 a.m. at the Highland Park complex, according to an emergency dispatch supervisor. The zoo was shut down within a half-hour of the incident and will remain closed indefinitely.
Zoo President and Chief Executive Officer Barbara Baker said at a news conference shortly after the incident that the child fell over the wooden railing and off of a mesh barrier where the painted dogs were on display. A zoo spokeswoman and police said the wooden railing is 4 feet in height and the lower mesh barrier is 11 feet 4 inches above the open exhibit space.
“The screams just kept coming and coming: ‘Someone help. Someone has to do something,’” recounted Angela Cinti, 20, of Bethel Park, who was visiting the zoo today with her boyfriend Nick Kramer, 16, of Bethel Park.
Lt. Kraus said zoo personnel responded within minutes. The first personnel on scene were able to lure seven of the dogs away from the victim and into a secure and separated area. A second set of personnel began “throwing objects and some other techniques that they use” to secure three more dogs.
He said the final dog, which was acting very aggressively toward the victim and zoo personnel, was shot multiple times by two Pittsburgh police officers and died.
The child was pronounced dead at the scene 12 p.m.
The incident is under investigation by police and the zoo. Lt. Kraus said it would be inappropriate to speculate on potential charges at this time and the bureau will continue to investigate to determine if anything could have been prevented.