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A 2-year-old boy was mauled by a pack of wild dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo on Sunday.
The boy's mother reportedly wanted to give her child a better view of the zoo's wild African dogs enclosure, and placed her toddler atop a 4-foot railing that overlooked the enclosure.
Almost as soon as the boy was placed on the railing, he lost his balance and fell about 14 feet into the enclosure. A pack of 11 dogs then jumped on the toddler and mauled him, reports The Associated Press.
The attack happened in a 1.5-acre exhibit called the Painted Dog Bush Camp. The exhibit is part of a larger open area where elephants, lions and other animals can be seen, writes the AP. Visitors can walk onto a deck that is enclosed by glass on the sides, but is open in front where there is a 4-foot railing where the two-year-old was reportedly placed.
Investigators say it is not clear whether the fall from the railing or the mauling killed the child. Zookeepers did respond to the scene within minutes, but they were unable to save the child. Police ended up killing one of the dogs.
The Pittsburgh Zoo had just completed its five-year safety review in September. So far, there is no indication that the zoo's negligence or a safety violation created a hazard.
But animal-related fatalities at other zoos have led to lawsuits. For example, in San Francisco in 2007, a tiger jumped out of an enclosure and killed a man who was reportedly taunting the animal. The San Francisco Zoo was sued for having a wall that was too short, and ultimately settled the lawsuit.
But unlike the San Francisco tiger attack, it's not yet clear if the Pittsburgh Zoo was careless in designing its wild dog exhibit. After all, the dogs did not jump out of the enclosure, but instead a toddler fell in after being placed atop a protective railing.
Zoos cannot be held accountable for all visitor injuries and deaths, especially when the negligence or carelessness of the visitors contributes to the accident.