Boy dies at zoo after falling into exhibit with wild dogs

PITTSBURGH -- A 2-year-old boy visiting the Pittsburgh zoo was killed Sunday when he fell off a railing where his mother had put him to view a pack of African painted dogs, which mauled him.

It was not clear whether the boy died from the 11-foot fall into the wild dog exhibit or from the attack, said Barbara Baker, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.

"It was very horrific," police Lt. Kevin Kraus said.

Zookeepers called off the dogs, and seven of them immediately went to a back building. Three more eventually were drawn away from the child, but the last dog was aggressive and police had to shoot it.

Authorities didn't immediately release the name of the boy or his mother, describing her as a 34-year-old who lives in Pleasant Hills, just outside Pittsburgh. The boy's father arrived at the zoo soon after the accident, police said.

Police, the Allegheny County medical examiner's office and the zoo are investigating.

The dogs are about as big as medium-size domestic dogs. African wild dogs are also known as cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs, and painted wolves. They have large, rounded ears and dark brown circles around their eyes and are considered endangered.

Ten African painted dogs were born at the zoo in 2009, and their mother died of a ruptured uterus. Five of the pups survived to become only the second litter ever to be hand-raised in captivity.