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.

Post by:
Filed under: Animals • Pennsylvania • U.S.
soundoff (1,798 Responses)
  1. BOMBO ©

    What a tragedy. Waiting for further details, but, he fell on his own? Over a barrier? At 3 years old? I don't think so. I suspect that this was a Michael Jackson situation, hanging the kid over a protective fence or railing. "My grip is strong."

    November 4, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. alex

    and where the hell were his parents ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡

    November 4, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • retiree

      DITTO! And please, Pittsburg Zoo, please don't destroy these wild dogs due to the negligence of these parents.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      retiree is another subhuman worried about the lives of some dogs, while ignoring the life of an innocent child. Hurry and vacate this planet, so the humanity of the planet can increase.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • kathy

      @Retiree99 The dogs are wild animals in an enclosure with a 14 foot wall. This was done for a reason, because they are very dangerous. It IS tragic that a 3 year old was killed. The question that really needs answering is, where were his parents? How did he fall from the observation ledge? You can't blame animals for the actions of humans. I am sure these dogs would rather be in their native environment than in an enclosure at the zoo. That alone probably makes them more dangerous, but not at fault in this case.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Geo

      The enclosure has a 14 foot wall because it was previously the cheetahs exhibit. The mother put her son on the ledge (supposeably in a standing position) and he fell in. I do feel sorry for the family and the people that witnessed this but since I have been to the Pittsburgh Zoo thousands of times (was just there last week) I know that the zoo is not at fault. The railing is at least 5 feet high and there are many signs saying "Do not climb or sit on railings!"

      November 5, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • jake

      I am sure they are chill about the whole thing...

      November 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Webhoncho

    Very sad. The 3-year old child was on outing with mother. Yes, the full details are needed, but generally, if I hear a story about someone hurt/killed INSIDE a zoo pen or cage area, I tend to think the victim or parent is at fault. Some shyster lawyer will try to blame the zoo or wild dogs for this, I'm sure.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      There are really only 3 parties involved here. The kid, the mother, and the dogs.

      The kid is 3. The dogs are dogs. It's pretty apparent who is at fault here.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Erin

      Totally agree with Anonymous!

      November 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • retphxfire

      I'm sure you could find another way to make your point without using 'shyster'. sheesh

      November 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJLS

      to retphxfire – you are not, by any chance, a lawyer, are you?

      November 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  4. harry

    Some mistakes are built to last. Don't let you kids out of your sight.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  5. sarah

    i know this boy and i know his parents. it was a freak accident. how dare both of you question the parents. how about a little sympathy. these poor parents had to watch their son be mauled to death. @Bombo – get a life with the michael jackson comment. shame on you.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • BPollutin

      Yah, a lot of people knew Sandusky too. That doesn't make them innocent nut case!

      November 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • shon

      for a better view? haha for the full 3D view.. stupid moms strike again.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Don't expect any humanity from the subhumans on here.... they're as depraved as the dogs that killed the little boy. They'll end up where they belong eventually and the world will better when they're gone.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Shame on you for blaming anyone else, even if you do know them. The kid was 3. The dogs are wild animals. Enclosures are built the way they are for public safety. If you bypass the safety walls/guards, you have a recipe for disaster and that's exactly what happened.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • retphxfire

      People can be cruel, especially when they can be anonymous. A reasonably intelligent person can make their point or have doubts without making themselves look like little, little people with no hearts. I also wonder how this freak accident could have happened with the mom right there, I will wait for more information.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patriot

      The article said that people watched while zookeepers tried to lure the dogs away. Why didn't parents jump in to save their baby? This doesn't sound right. As a parent, nothing would have stopped me from jumping in to rescue my baby.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Let me be one of the few moral people on this blog...My prayers and blessings go out to the parents in their time of sorrow. May their memories of him be held to their heart and forever in their mind. God shall protect their son, and hold him close until the day they are all united again. God Bless.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Charlie

      It was no freak accident. The mother put the kid on the railing. That is bad judgement on the parent's fault.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense

      Did they at least make the mother pay for the dog that was shot? Those things are VERY expensive considering how rare they are, and her actions also caused the zoo to close, which is going to cost it even more money.

      My heart goes out to the zoo, and I sincerely hope this moron won't affect the jobs of any of its employees. It's completely irresponsible to feed your kids to endangered animals, as their diet needs to be specially controlled for the animal's health.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • emma cee

      Sorry, but the mother was too irresponsible and shows a complete lack of good judgement. This incident could have been prevented, without a doubt. I don't mean to come across as harsh, but the truth hurts. Far too many parents have shown a lack of good judgement when it comes to children and animals.

      November 6, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Finkelstein, Rosenberg, Cheetam, and Howe

    Lawsuit inbound.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Common Sense

      Agreed, the zoo lost a very endangered animal, not to mention the loss of business while it's closed.

      Additionally, most zoos have very strict 'do not feed the animals' rules. The fact that this woman tried to feed them her kid doesn't make it ok, she owes them quite a bit of money.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Tiredoldman

    Unless there was a hole in the walkway railing the child's parents should be charged with the child's death. The kid either climbed the railing or was lifted over it. Yet some lawyer will blame the Zoo for not making it 100% safe and the parents will profit for their carelessness. Just like those teenage rejects that shot the tiger with wrist rockets and ended up getting attacked and killed.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anonymous

      I think they should be blamed for it, but not charged for it.

      Sometimes accidents happen, and many times it will be out of neglect. I doubt the mother is a bad person. Just someone who made a mistake by not watching the kid for 3 seconds out of the 100 million or so seconds the kid had been alive.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Annonymous

      I work for the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and know that unless the parents were holding the child up and over the railing, there is no way the kid could have fallen into the exhibit unless he was climbing and no one was watching him. I am saddened to know that a situation like this occurred and I will be extremely disappointed if the zoo is held responsible for an accident and a mistake. It is not the zoo's fault that a child fell into a wild animal's exhibit after they have taken the necessary precautions to prevent incidents such as this from happening.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Webhoncho

    Pittsburg CBS News is reporting that the mother was holding up the 3-year old for a "better view". You make the call..

    November 4, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • JES

      Just as I suspected.....parent error....of course "someone who knows the family" chimmed in earlier to say that "it was a freak accident".....i.e.- the parent did something wrong and ist still looking for a way to blame the zoo and just hasn't found it or the right lawyer yet.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. BillyBoy

    Wow this is sad and I feel bad for the family. I've been to this exhibit several times and it would be very hard to fall into, especially being a small child. The child had to be standing on something that they shouldn't have been...

    November 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Erin

    This is tragic but I strongly believe the animals should not be held at fault. Either it was a faulty observation deck or the parents are incompetent. Either way the animals are still wild animals and we should expect them to behave so.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Yeah.... the dogs are not to blame for the dogs action. Same as current politicians.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Reality99, you have no idea what you are talking about. With or without enclosures, the dogs would behave the same. You wouldn't approach them in the wild without some sort of protective barrier. Comparing this to politicians is like comparing apples and chickens. There is nothing similar here.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patriot

      If the dogs are SO dangerous then why not have a wire cage over the top of the pit? Really stupid.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • logicalgirl

      Patriot- for the same reason there isn't one over every animal cage at the zoo. There are millions of signs everywhere and all of the animals should be seen as dangerous. Otherwise there wouldn't be cages. And you wouldn't have to lift children up over the railing to "see".

      November 5, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Report abuse |
  11. shon

    for a better view? haha for the full 3D view.. stupid moms strike again.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alligator face

    one way ticket to prison for mom.....intentional or not this was beyond bad judgement.....this was criminal negligence at least.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Monday morning QBs like you need to see a psychiatrist.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJLS

      The mother is already paying the ultimate price for a bad decision, "...criminally negligent at least"? What would be the most, first degree murder?. I'm surprised you didn't call for the immediate destruction of the animals in question, I mean, how dare they act like wild animals!

      November 4, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. oh

    The abject poverty and plain hateful meanness of the human spirit as displayed in the comments here really amaze and sadden me. People, in general, really suck.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • janemutiny

      Generally, people are good. This venue brings out the worst.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
  14. alligator face

    that poor kid....the baby getting attacked by those dogs would be like a small adult being attacked by full grown lions.....that mother should do 30 years in prison.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJLS

      What a grotesque analogy, pretty much shows how your mind works. What, only 30 yrs? – why not 40 or 50 or life? Exactly who would benefit with a prison sentence, you with your misguided sense of justice for the rest of humanity?

      November 4, 2012 at 4:08 pm | Report abuse |
  15. AJ

    Not judging but when I took my 3-year old to the zoo last month I made absolutely sure she didn't climb up any exhibit barriers and when I had to hold her up so she could see the animals, I was careful to keep a firm grasp on her because I knew that this kind of tragedy has happened before.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary

      @ AJ, Thank you for your tactful reminder to all parents.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45