© Paul A. Selvaggio
African Painted Dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium.
A 2-year-old boy fell 14 feet into the African painted dog exhibit area at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium shortly before noon Sunday and was mauled to death by the dogs.
Police said the child lost his balance after his mother lifted him in a standing position onto the 4-foot-high wooden railing of an elevated, gazebolike structure that overlooks the enclosure. He toppled over the railing, hit a mesh shelf and landed on the ground of the open exhibit space, where he was set upon by the 11 dogs in the area.
The medical examiner's office would not release the child's name Sunday evening. Police said he and his 34-year-old mother are from Pleasant Hills and were visiting the zoo with cousins, an adult and another child.
Major Crimes Lt. Kevin Kraus declined to comment on potential charges and said the bureau will continue to investigate to determine if anything could have prevented the death.
Angela Cinti, 20, of Bethel Park saw the attack and described a horrifying scene that lasted minutes but seemed like hours.
"The screams just kept coming and coming," said Ms. Cinti, who was at the zoo with her boyfriend. "We were on our way to the polar bear exhibit when we heard the most horrible piercing screams. ... Someone was begging for help, asking someone to do something."
As they ran toward the screams, she saw a small crowd of distressed onlookers and the little boy's apparently lifeless body lying on the hill inside the painted dog exhibit with three of the animals at his head, neck and leg.