Pittsburgh Zoo to remove viewing deck after toddler's death

Pittsburgh Thu Dec 6, 2012 10:51pm GMT

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Pittsburgh (Reuters) - The Pittsburgh Zoo will remove an observation deck one month after a toddler fell over its railing and was killed by a pack of African wild dogs, the Allegheny County District Attorney's Office said on Thursday.

The 2-year-old boy was visiting the zoo last month with his mother, who stood him on the railing for a better view of the animals, known as African painted dogs, police said.

The boy fell into the exhibit, where he was swarmed by 11 dogs. Zookeepers rushed to the exhibit area housing the animals, firing darts to frighten them away from the child before police arrived.

The Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office identified the boy as Maddox Derkosh and said in a statement that he bled to death from "multiple trauma, inflicted through mauling by wild African dogs."

Zoo staff secured 10 of the dogs, but police entered the pit and shot and killed the last dog, which was particularly aggressive toward the child and the officers, authorities said.

In an email to the press on Thursday, the district attorney's office said the zoo would remove the observation platform out of respect to the victim's family. The district attorney's office said in November the boy's mother would not be charged, but it is still investigating whether the zoo was at fault.

African painted dogs are endangered species and native to sub-Saharan Africa. They have an average size of just over 2 feet to 3.5 feet (0.6 to 1 meter). They are also known as Cape hunting dogs or painted dogs because of their mottled coats with patches of red, black, brown, white and yellow fur.

(Editing by Paul Thomasch and Peter Cooney)

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