November 4th, 2012
03:11 PM ET

African painted dogs kill young boy at Pittsburgh Zoo

A group of African painted dogs killed a boy who fell into their exhibit today at the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Barbara Baker, the zoo's president, said the child was around 3 years old.

He "fell off an observation deck that's about 14 feet above the exhibit," she said, "and was killed by the dogs."

"Our emergency teams and our Pittsburgh police responded immediately, but there wasn’t anything that could be done," added Baker.

The boy fell into the enclosure at 11:45 a.m., and visitors quickly alerted staff, the zoo said in a statement. A zookeeper moved seven of the 11 dogs out of the exhibit, and a Veterinarian Department member shot darts trying to scare away the remaining dogs.

"Unfortunately, the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding," the zoo said.

Zookeepers, meanwhile, entered the exhibit to try to lure the dogs away, but they could not reach the boy in time. The keepers and Pittsburgh police officers continued efforts, too, to lure away the dogs, and "one aggressive dog was shot and killed by an officer," according to the zoo.

The Pittsburgh Zoo and the associated PPG Aquarium are closed until further notice.

African painted dogs are among the most endangered dog species in the world, with less than 5,000 left in the wild, according to the zoo. The zoo has a breeding program.

Each is about the size of a small German shepherd, Baker said.

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Filed under: Animals • Pennsylvania • U.S.
soundoff (1,798 Responses)
  1. macromicrocosm

    Were they trying to save the child, or these bloody dogs? Forget darts and diversions! Shotguns and handguns and forget your own safety. What wouldn't a parent do, if it was wild dogs versus their 3 year old child? I say negligence on the part of the zoo.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:05 am | Report abuse |
    • cBlock

      dude, really?

      November 5, 2012 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • navyvette

      I missed something....the ZOO put the kid on the wall to fall off?....get a clue!

      November 5, 2012 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
    • Em

      Yeah because the child is at no risk of getting hit by bullets if you start shooting the pack that is mauling it? Stupid comment.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:57 am | Report abuse |
  2. adam

    ok....how ?????

    November 5, 2012 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
  3. kathy

    He "fell off an observation deck that's about 14 feet above the exhibit," she said, "and was killed by the dogs."

    I think the big question everyone wants to know is where were his parents? Why was he on the observation deck and why wasn't someone at least holding on to him?

    November 5, 2012 at 7:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bill D.

    How on Earth does a 3 year old fall into an exhibit? How is that even possible?

    November 5, 2012 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      The mother had the child STANDING on the railing -

      November 5, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Lynne

      The parents put the child on the railing to see better. They should both be charged with negligent homicide. Of course this will somehow be turned around, blamed on the zoo and the dogs. How stupid can parents be to put a toddler on a fence railing at a zoo that encloses any animal!

      November 5, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Sue

      I blame the mother!

      November 5, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
  5. Redhead in Cary

    "African painted dogs are among the most endangered dog species in the world, with less than 5,000 left in the wild." Well, now there's one less because of a stupid human. Tragic for the child and the dog. You need a license to drive, you should have a license to parent. Yes, I am a mother – at that age (3), a parent should know they can be unpredictable in their actions as well as balance.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Phil

      Agreed! I feel bad for the child and the animal. The parents should be in jail.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Jumbimbo

      I'd say destroy all these dogs sice there is no place for them in todays society.
      If I want to show my kids African painted Dogs; I'll just spraypaint my Husky black and airbrush a gold chain around his neck.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. Larry

    Of course someone must have been holding the child on the railing and dropped it, but we can't accuse the parents or siblings of something like that. We can't DARE place the responsibility on someone when we could blame the wild animals for killing.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  7. blackhawkmom

    The mother lifted the child to put him on top of the rail. BAD decision.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. tutuvabene

    Apparently the mother was holding the child on top of the railing for "a better view" and he must have slipped out of her grasp and fell. The zoo will probably get sued anyway.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:35 am | Report abuse |
  9. pamik

    I don't think anyone is saying the dog's lives were more important than this child's life. However, I agree with almost every post here in regards to the child falling. How does that happen? Is there no fence around the observation area? If so, how did he get over/around it? I'm sure he just wanted to see the "puppies". I think I'd tether my child to my body when going to someplace like this. They can be gone in the blink of an eye as witnessed yesterday. So sad but I think it is ultimately the parent/guardian's fault. How long has that exhibit been there and how many others have fallen? Just shows that it is safe as long as you're paying attention.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  10. Michael R.

    A very sad and horrible event for everyone. To see and hear your child being mauled by animals while you watch in horror... I can't imagine the pain and trauma. Now is not the time to point fingers or make assumptions. Now is the time to help this poor woman and her family heal. As an animal lover, I also mourn for the loss of a precious creature however I believe the zoo staff did what they had to in an attempt to rescue the child.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
  11. Grey

    And the parents were where?

    You;re in a zoo surrounded by wild animals taken out of their natural habitat making them stressed and even more unpredictible than normal. You have to keep tight grips on your kids. Especially since all carnivore species prey on the small and the weak.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  12. Dana

    Poor little fella probably tasted just like chicken to those dogs.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  13. divegrl430

    Why are some people allowed to breed? This poor dog had to be killed because of a parent that was lacking responsibility and common sense to not let their child climb on the railing overlooking the exhibit. Why don't we make people get a liscence to have children?! I'm so sad for this dog that was killed because it was acting as a wild animal....which it is!

    November 5, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  14. trishthedish

    I think the problem is the design of the exhibit and viewing area. Safety must always come first. I suspect there is a governing body that ensures zoo safety? Had this exhibit been inspected? So very, very sad.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. TyrantInShorts

    If I had a child, I would hold them about 25 feet further away from dangerous animals, dangerous traffic, dangerous heights and any dangerous situation than I keep myself. That believe me, is really far.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
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