World

Tot mauled to death by wild dogs at Pittsburgh Zoo

A toddler visiting a Pittsburgh zoo was killed Sunday when he fell off a railing that his mother had put him atop to view a pack of African painted dogs.
A critically-endangered African wild dog stands in Mana Pools National Park, Zimbabwe, on Nov. 7, 2009. (Howard Burditt/Reuters)

A toddler visiting a Pittsburgh zoo was killed Sunday when he fell off a railing that his mother had put him atop to view a pack of African painted dogs.

The child fell into the exhibit and the dogs, considered an endangered species, mauled him. However, police couldn't say whether the boy died from the 3.5-metre fall or from the attack by the dogs.

Lt. Kevin Kraus of the Pittsburgh police described the accident as "horrific."

Authorities haven't released the names of the boy or his mother, 34, who lives just outside Pittsburgh. Police said the boy's father arrived soon after the accident.

Pittsburgh radio station KDKA reported the fatal incident wasn't the first  incident for the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s African painted dogs exhibit. In May, nine of the dogs escaped from the exhibit and were able to dig out of their main enclosure. The dogs ended up in a backup enclosure and zoo staff were able to quickly corral them.

There are fewer than 5,500 of the African painted dogs remaining in the world, according to an information sheet circulated by the zoo.

The dogs, with their mottled coats of black and brown, weigh between 16 and 36 kilograms on average and live to be about 10 years old. The social pack animals hunt antelope, zebra, wildebeest, springboks, gazelles and impala.