PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Sunday’s mauling death was not the first incident at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium’s African painted dogs exhibit.

In May of this year, nine of the dogs escaped from the exhibit and were able to dig out of their main enclosure.

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The dogs ended up in a backup enclosure and zoo staff were able to quickly corral them.

Although officials say the dogs were never out roaming the zoo, they still took the precaution of moving roughly 200 visitors into nearby buildings.

African painted dogs are about the size of a small German Shepard, as well as very rare and on the endangered species list. According to the zoo’s Web site, there are less than 5,500 in existence.

The dogs were first brought to the zoo in 2006, according to Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium President and CEO Barbara Baker.

“It’s a hard thing to have the ability to have animals on display and to keep everybody safe — the visitors, the animals,” Baker said.

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It’s still too early to tell if Sunday’s events will bring about changes at the zoo.

Pittsburgh’s African painted dogs also received a lot of attention in 2009 when a litter of pups was born. Shortly after, the mother died and a domestic dog was brought in to nurse the puppies.

The toddler’s death Sunday was the first visitor death at the zoo in its 114-year history.

However, several years ago another person did die at the Pittsburgh Zoo. An elephant killed a zookeeper in 2002 after it got spooked. Officials called it an accident.

The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has a Web page about its African painted dogs describing them as social pack animals that usually hunt large animals such as antelope, zebras and wildebeests. They are also described as having calico coats in mottled black and brown colors.

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African Painted Dogs Escape Main Exhibit Area At Zoo (5/5/2012)
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