After a 2-year-old boy was killed by wild African dogs after falling into an exhibit at a zoo in Pittsburgh on Sunday, officials at the Minnesota Zoo and Como Zoo are taking a second look into safety.
Investigators say the toddler tumbled into Pennsylvania exhibit after his mother lifted him up on the railing, and he fell. It's estimated that he fell about 14 feet, and while crews responded quickly, it wasn't fast enough to save him from the dogs, which attacked immediately.
At first, officials said they weren't sure whether the fall or the animals were responsible for the boy's death, but the medical examiner announced the boy died because of the mauling on Monday.
When incidents like these occur, zoos across the country take closer looks at their safety precautions, and the Minnesota Zoo was no exception. The railing over their most dangerous animals, the tigers, is ringed with a chain-link catcher fence that extends out and up about 4 feet. That makes it nearly impossible to fall in; however, no one should be on the railing to begin with.
"People need to use common sense when they're at these exhibits," said Tony Fisher, of the Minnesota Zoo. "They should never put [kids] on top of the barrier… they're clumsy, they fall."
The Minnesota Zoo conducted a safety review six years ago after a 9-year-old was bitten by a meerkat, but the girl who was hurt had to put in a lot of effort to get as close as she did. She climbed over and up barriers, and reached over the glass.
Afterward, the zoo added more barriers to make it impossible to repeat. Eventually, they removed the exhibit altogether.
Two years ago, a toddler was pawed by a cougar at the Como Zoo after a parent hoisted the child onto a barrier.
"He picked up his child and he put him on the railing here that you can't even get to now," explained Matt Reinartz, of the Como Zoo. "Our safeguards here at Como meet and exceed all the requirements."
Many exhibits at the Como Zoo also have safety catcher fences, but officials say visitors need to follow the signs, refrain from putting children on railings and remember that zoo animals are not tame.