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UPDATED: Child Killed in Pittsburgh Zoo Exhibit

The Pleasant Hills boy was being balanced on a railing by his mother when he fell 11 feet into the African painted dogs exhibit.

UPDATED: A 2-year-old child was killed at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium Sunday morning after being mauled when he fell into the African painted dogs exhibit.

"It is with heavy hearts we report that a tragic accident occurred this morning at 11:45 a.m. when a young child fell into the African painted dog exhibit area and was killed," the zoo stated on its Facebook page.

"The accident is under investigation by both the Zoo and the Pittsburgh Police Department. The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium will remain closed until further notice."

The child was with his 34-year-old mother, of Pleasant Hills, at the African painted dogs exhibit when he fell from the top of a platform railing to the ground inside the pit area, according to a statement from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police.

The child was immediately attacked by 11 dogs inside the pen, and was later pronounced dead at the scene as a result of the attack, police said.

Zoo personnel were able to secure 10 of the dogs, but not the final dog due to aggressive and violent behavior, according to the police statement.

When Zone 5 police officers arrived and entered the pit, the dog continued to exhibit extremely aggressive behavior toward the child and the officers, police said.

Both officers fired multiple gunshots and killed the animal, according to the police statement. 

Homicide investigators have interviewed several witnesses and zoo personnel, and the investigation is ongoing, police said. 

They are asking anyone who witnessed this incident to call the Pittsburgh Homicide Unit at (412) 323-7161.

The child's parents are being treated for trauma, according to police.

A news release distributed by zoo officials said keepers cleared seven of the 11 dogs after the child fell into the exhibit, the PG reported.

Darts were shot into the exhibit to scare the dogs away from the child, but "unfortunately, the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding," according to the news release.

African painted dogs are an endangered species, according to the zoo's website.

Earlier this year, the zoo closed when the painted dogs reportedly escaped from their area.

Correction: The child's age is 2; earlier reports listed his age as 3.

Patch will be monitoring developments on this story. Check back for updates.

Feline November 04, 2012 at 09:51 PM
I hope this is a warning to all other parents, those railings are there for a reason! It is a shame the animal had to be killed for someones mistake..
jason November 04, 2012 at 09:52 PM
The mother should be fined and the zoo held free of liability
Amanda Gillooly November 04, 2012 at 09:57 PM
Comment removed because it contained a personal attack.
Teresa Suchta November 04, 2012 at 10:53 PM
Im sure the mother feels bad enough now she has to live with that the rest of her life. Yes sometimes we all let our guard down not even thinking about what may happen they were just caught in a joyful moment being at the zoo. No one is a winner in this one. Just a very SAD situation .......
Cindy Cusic Micco November 04, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Jason - We really don't know exactly what happened yet. The police and zoo are investigating. As a mother, I can tell you there are times when you are holding onto one child when your other child takes off and you're struggling to keep up with both. Or, despite your best efforts, a child wiggles out of your grip. Or, you are distracted for a split second. I don't know what happened. But I'm not going to condemn a traumatized woman whose little one just died. I think the family needs our prayers now.
Laura Padovani November 04, 2012 at 11:59 PM
The mother will live with this the rest of her life. No amount of money will bring that child back.
Sandy K November 05, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Agree with Cindy and Teresa. I cannot fathom the pain the family must be enduring right now. My prayers are with them. I am shocked at the cold and uncaring, comments made, but then I shouldn't be. I don't think those comments are worth anyone's acknowledgement, such twisted thinking doesn't deserve one's attention.
Dixie M November 05, 2012 at 02:26 AM
Time for the zoo to build a taller fence, so this doesn't happen again.
sheridan edmondson November 05, 2012 at 02:55 PM
This is a horrible tragedy. I frequently see parents lift children up so that they can see since the child's view is obstructed. Since this type of behavior happens fairly frequently, zoos need to consider this when constructing exhibits and build them so that this type of tragedy does not occur.
Kim November 05, 2012 at 03:13 PM
There should have been no way that child or any other person should have been able to fall or get into that area with such dangerous animasl. Yes the zoo is liable. My heart goes out to the family of this young child. I can't imagine how absolutely horrific it must have been.
Dtins kcl November 07, 2012 at 08:54 AM
Sounds like Jason and Feline care more about animals than human life. So sad. What is this world coming to? My prayers go out to the parents that lost a child so tragically. Shame on you who judge them!

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