This is the tragic two-year-old boy who was mauled to death by a pack of ravenous African wild dogs after he fell off a zoo railing his mother put him on to get a better view of the animals on Sunday.
Desperate rescue attempts by zookeepers and armed police officers could not deter the 11 aggressive beasts as they savagely attacked the two-year-old, from Pleasant Hills, on Sunday morning.
A medical examiner concluded today that the toddler was killed by the animals, not by the fall.
Barbara Baker, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium said there is a net below the rail, but the boy bounced off it and into the enclosure.
She said the animals attacked the child so quickly that by the time a veterinarian and other zoo staffers arrived seconds later, they determined it would have been futile to try to rescue the child.
Authorities said that zoo staff and then police responded ‘within minutes’ but visitors described that time as being filled with screams for help.
Zookeepers called off some of the dogs, and seven of them immediately went to a back building.
Three more eventually were drawn away from the child and one especially aggressive dog refused to back down and stop attacking the boy.
It was shot dead by an officer. Experts said the death is highly unusual.
The family’s neighbor Rachel Majcher told the Tribune Review: ‘(Jason and Elizabeth) went nowhere without Maddox. I cannot imagine the dark cloud that is following them.’
‘I can’t imagine as a mom myself what tragedy that would be, Your heart stops when your kid skins a knee.’
She said her father saw Maddox trick-or-treating in a Superman costume, and he could often be found playing on a swing set with his cousin, who lives nearby.
‘The hardest part is going to be to explain to my kids that their playmate is no longer here. His life will be celebrated.’
Steve Feldman, a spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said no one he’s spoken to can recall any deaths of children at an accredited zoo over the last 40 years or more.
Feldman said the Pittsburgh Zoo successfully completed its five-year review in September, which means it meets or exceeds all safety standards.
The zoo was immediately closed, and it was not clear when it will reopen, authorities said.
The so-called painted dogs are about as big as medium-sized domestic dogs, and 37 to 80 pounds , according to the zoo. They have large, rounded ears and dark brown circles around their eyes and are considered endangered.
The attack happened in a 1.5 acre exhibit called the Painted Dog Bush Camp that’s part of a larger open area where elephants, lions and other animals can be seen. Visitors walk onto a deck that is glassed on the sides, but open in front where the roughly four-foot railing is located.
In May, some of the dogs crawled under a fence and escaped into a part of the exhibit that’s usually closed. The zoo was on lockdown for about an hour as a precaution.
Kraus said there was nothing to prevent visitors to the painted dog exhibit from jumping into the exhibit area. He described the accident as ‘horrific’.
‘Unfortunately, the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding to zookeepers’ efforts to control them,’ the zoo said in a statement.
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