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 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, who was from Whitehall, 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.
Two witnesses commented on Patch.com about the horrific scene.
A person using the name Dreamweaver wrote: "I was at the zoo today in the restaurant right outside of the Painted dog exhibit and witnessed it...very scary. We have often thought just how unsafe that exhibit is, nothing to stop anyone from falling. Nothing I want to witness again."
Kathleen Lucas was another witness who shared her comments on Patch.
"I was there, at the exhibit. It did not take several minutes for the dogs to attack, they did so immediately. It was a horrible scene that I wish I was not part of and witness. My prayers go out to the mom and family."
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 on Upper St. Clair Patch for updates.