According to abcnews.go.com, 2-year-old boy died tragically Sunday morning when he fell into the African wild dogs exhibit at the Pittsburgh Zoo and was attacked by 11 dogs. The boy was placed by his mother on top of the railing at the edge of a viewing deck in order to give him a better view of the animals in the exhibit. Almost immediately thereafter he lost balance and fell in, where he was attacked by 11 dogs in plain view of his mother and bystanders.
Authorities say that the dogs attacked the boy as soon he fell into the pit and that although police and zookeepers arrived within minutes, it was too late. Witnesses say that it was a horrific scene dominated by screams for help. First, zookeepers managed to call off some of the dogs, with seven of them immediately withdrawing to a back building. Eventually three more dogs were drawn away from the child, but an overly aggressive one had to be shot dead by police.
African wild dogs (or painted dogs, as they are also called) are roughly the size of a medium-sized domestic dog and weigh between 37 and 80 pounds. With large, rounded ears, they have distinctive dark brown circles around their eyes, hence why they are called “painted.” They are very aggressive and territorial, usually hunting in packs in their natural habitat in Africa.
The president of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium, Barbara Baker, said that it was not clear yet whether the boy died of the fall or was killed by the dogs. Both the Zoo and the Pittsburg police are conducting separate investigations. The Pittsburgh Zoo successfully completed its 5-year review recently, meeting or exceeding all safety standards. However, last May some of the dogs did crawl under a fence and escaped into a part of the exhibit that is usually closed, causing the zoo to be locked down for about an hour.
Moreover, although Steve Feldman, a spokesperson for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, claims that no one he has talked to recalls an incident in which a child has died at an accredited zoo in the last 40 years or more, cases of people being attacked by animals at zoos are not uncommon. For example, last September a man jumped from an elevated viewing train into the tigers’ pit at the Bronx zoo and was severely injured by the animals.
Similarly, in 2007 a tiger jumped over a wall at the San Francisco zoo, killing one visitor and wounding two others.
Zoo May Be Liable
Although the mother of the child in this case may have been negligent when she placed her son on top of the railing, the zoo may still be found liable: according to Lt. Kevin Kraus of the Pittsburgh police, there is no fence high enough to prevent visitors from jumping into the wild dogs’ exhibit….
The Lawyers of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano Can Help
With more than 70 years of combined experience, the lawyers of Greenberg Stone and Urbano are ready to handle amusement park accident cases against theme parks of all sizes, from the local county fairs to the largest theme parks in the nation, including those owned and operated by Disney, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens or elsewhere in the nation. Our firm successfully handled a large injury claim against the Miami-Dade County Youth Fair and the owner of the Gravitron ride that caused an injury to our client when it failed. Moreover, our firm is currently litigating a case against Parrot Jungle in Miami on behalf of a mother and her child who were injured while fleeing an escaped tiger. To learn more about our past cases against amusement parks, please visit the Notable Cases section of our website.
If you or a loved one have suffered a serious injury as a result of an accident at an amusement park, you should immediately contact a law firm experienced in handling these cases. The Miami Dade County Amusement Park Injury Law Offices of Greenberg, Stone & Urbano have throughout the years represented many clients involved in serious theme park injuries, including traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Visit our website to learn more about our firm and contact us today for a free consultation.