A group of 11 African painted dogs mauled a 2-year-old boy to death at the Pittsburgh Zoo & Aquarium, officials confirmed yesterday. The boy was touring the zoo with his mother and leaning on a wooden railing when he fell into the enclosure.
"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. Kevin Kraus told The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Officials immediately responded to the mother's screams and pleas for help and were able to separate some of the dogs from the pack.
"Unfortunately, the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding," the zoo said in a statement.
Police "shot and killed one aggressive dog," but none of the others were hurt in the incident. By the time the teams were able to safely get to the child, he was already dead.
"Our emergency teams and our Pittsburgh police responded immediately, but there wasn't anything that could be done," zoo president Barbara Baker told CNN. Baker immediately closed the zoo for the rest of the day and dispersed visitors who were affected by the incident.
"We were locked down in the building and told to stay inside," visitor Bart DePasquale told The Post-Gazette. "We thought it was a problem with one of the animals that got loose. Then we were told it was an incident with the wild dogs and that a child had been hurt."
"On the way out, I saw a mother who was distressed and crying and other people who couldn't even talk about it. People, and anyone who had been close, were almost in tears, walking out glassy-eyed. That's when multiple people told me the dogs attacked a young child," DePasquale added.
The zoo plans to launch an investigation into the incident.