Tragedy struck at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium on Sunday, November 4, 2012 when a two year old boy was mauled to death by African dogs following a fall. Police and zoo officials report that the incident occurred during the late morning hours when the boy's mother, a thirty four year old Pleasant Hills, Pennsylvania, resident (whose identity has not been disclosed) put the child on the railing of the viewing deck of the African dog exhibit. Lieutenant Kevin Kraus of the Pittsburgh police offered the details of the "very horrific" incident in a statement published by Huffington Post. Kraus offered: "Almost immediately after [the child was placed on the railing] he lost his balance, fell down off the railing into the pit, and he was immediately attacked by 11 dogs."
Officals immediately responded to the scene of the incident and attempted to intervene. Several of the dogs were drawn away from the child. The most aggressive of the pack was shot. The 77 acre zoo home to 4,000 animals and 475 species was quickly shut down following the tragedy. It is unknown at this time if the boy's death was caused by the fall or the mauling. An autopsy has been scheduled for Monday, November 5, 2012 by the Allegheny County medical examiner. The child's name is expected to be released following the medical examiner's findings.
The child's death is the first to occur within an accredited zoo in over 40 years. Animal expert and Columbus Zoo director emeritus Jack Hanna expressed his opinion, concern, and condolences over the toddler's death during an interview with ABC. Hanna stated: "They [African dogs] are one of the most aggressive predatory animals in the wild. A zookeeper, a tranquilizer gun could not have helped...Words can not express how sorry I am." His words, perhaps a sentiment shared by many.