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. TheVocalAtheist

    Zoos should be outlawed. Endangered species should be allowed to flourish in a natural environment. Remember to neuter and spay your domesticated pets.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      Well you get on over to Africa and get everyone over there to follow your rules. I do agree that animals belong in the wild, if they can be there. Unfortunately, that is not the world we live in.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • New York

      Drinker, one good way to get other places to 'follow the rules' would be if Americans agreed to STOP FEEDING THEM until they do! : )

      November 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • octopus

      zoos should be outlawed – agree. they are concentration camps for animals.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      I don't disagree with that exactly but that would actually probably lead to more poaching for both food and money.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Seashells

      Animals in zoos were most likely born in that environment, so they know nothing of the "real" world. In the vast majority of zoos, the animals are well cared for. They are "wild" animals and should be respected as so. My children loved going to the zoo, and I did too. But I certainly watched them carefully, held their hands, etc. etc. because, as is true anywhere, there are dangers in zoos. My heart goes out to this family.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist


      I'm not trying to be disrespectful but a wild animal is born in the real world as a wild animal, maybe not in its natural surroundings but it still is a wild animal. Please do a little research on zoos and treatment of animals before you make such a broad statement about their welfare begin cared for.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Avg. Joe

      As much as it pains me to say this and I pray for the parents/guardians of the child but there is no way for a child to get into that exhibit without help or at least inadequate supervision.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      IF endangered species flourished in a natural environment, they wouldn't be endangered, would they! As for spaying and neutering: I breed German shepherd dogs for show. If we all spayed and neutered, dogs would cease to exist. People should keep a better eye on their kids!

      November 4, 2012 at 6:12 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Donnie the Lion

    The only other information available is that the child was with his mother (no father present), and no visitors witnessed him falling.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Laurie

      Darwin at work.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Pittsburgh Mom

    This zoo has never had a visitor death before today. The child was actually 2 years old and was being held by his legs on top of a fence. This is the equivalent to placing a toddler in the car without a car seat. Tragic but avoidable.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      I can't imagine having to live with the fact that you killed your child by being stupid.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • octopus

      >drinker75: she's too stupid to feel like this.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
  4. understand with compassion

    It was not the babies fault the parent was not thinking. the wild dog had to die to try to save the baby you must agree on that.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      No, the dog ADID NOT have to die! It was already too late, and the dog was in an enclosure not bothering anyone until the kid fell in. They are wild animals. What did you expect them to do? Stupid mommy – most of them don't know what their kids are doing most of the time..

      November 4, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Rockymcgilicutty

    Have another drink.A 14 foot fall if you hang it is a 8 foot fall.At the very least cover the child with your body.You would last longer than the baby.You must be white collar,a man would do what needs done.I guess you would have tried to negotiate with the dogs.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      Well, I'm a woman and have you been to the zoo in question?

      November 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
  6. noteasilyswayed

    If there are high rails, it is because they are trying to prevent people from falling..... to hold up a child so that they can see over the rails is pretty dumb, as it goes totally against the safety of the child.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • octopus

      maybe she wanted to feed the child to the dogs.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. New York

    b/c it's Wild Dogs in a Zoo, this will get attention, but I know of 1/2 dozen child deaths from kids being unsupervised around poorly socialized attack breed domesticated dogs.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      You are exactly right, unfortunately!

      November 4, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      WTH are "attack breed" domestic dogs? Last I knew, the AKC does not have a breed called "attack". Ever watch Cesar Millan? Some of the most vicious dogs are the small ones! Kisa are known to torment and tease dogs. People should keep their kids AWAY, period. Everyone always blames the dog, when it's the stupid human's fault!

      November 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • hannah1

      That would be "Kids", not "Kisa" my bad

      November 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Christain

    If it were my kid or even any little kid i would grab a stick and jump in and save him

    November 4, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • I agree...

      You would think it would be the instinct of all of us to do that. I believe I would...I pulled a cat from a pack of dogs once, they scare easily when they are in a frenzy like that. The cat died anyway, but at least quietly. Even if it were a no win battle, like with a Lion, my child would not die alone...he would have to eat me first.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Reality99

    A 4 foot fence..... ANY parent that is more than 5 feet tall (99% of the population) that is holding a child, will end up with the child being above 4 feet off the ground. This zoo designed a fence that 99% of the population could fall over, and now some low IQ types on here keep trying to blame the parents for the zoo's faulty design decisions and poor operating procedures. Prosecute the zoo operators and maybe other zoos will spend more time designing rational enclosures instead of obeying the whining of the animal rights fanatics.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      The child was standing on top of the fence being held by the legs by the mother. Standard hand rail height by OSAH is 42" so people don't fall over them. The only low IQ here is yours.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75


      November 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. parents worst nightmare

    The mother was wrong but it seems there is more compassion here for the dog then the baby????

    November 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      That's become the norm on the internet...... more concern for animals than humans.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Key Conner

      Because there are only 5,000 of this breed of animal left in the entire world!
      While at the same time there are 7 billion humans left in the world.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sully

      It's a sign of overpopulation. People do not care about other people even a little anymore. If one dies, there are always a billion other ones out there to take his/her place. That's the cold truth. Our psyche seems to be changing to care less and less about other people. Also, caring for pets to the level people do is pretty nuts. Most people who are pet freaks are either control freaks or can't maintain a human relationship, so they put their misplaced love into animals (who they can control or who can't talk back or leave them).

      November 4, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Report abuse |
  11. glenn

    Where were the parents? What were they doing? What nearly all of you would have been doing? Doing Facebook and texting and checking emails on their phone when they should have been watching their kid.

    And I am not buying that most Americans are too responsible for this to happen. We are a nation of jackholes.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  12. What's Wrong With This Picture?

    How does a 3 year old manage to wind up falling into a pit filled with voracious wild dogs? Something is terribly wrong here. Poor, sweet little guy. He did not stand a chance of surviving that! May his precious soul be at peace now. I think charges are in order ~ swiftly followed by prosecution of the human guilty involved ~ the guilty not being that poor baby, of course!

    November 4, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  13. DC

    I don't get why some of you are so quick to defend the parents.... The animals are 'wild' and they were enjoying their own limited space when a human decided to enter it. Who created the problem?? The parents are the only one responsible here folks. I'm sure there were signs, it certainly sounds like carelessness and lack of parental intervention was the cause. Sad to hear a child died, very tragic. May this story serve as a reminder to you parents to watch your kids more often and take responsibility for them when you are near a potentially dangerous place. The mother has to live her poor decision forever...sad, just so sad.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  14. If this were my child....

    There would be 11 less of this endangered species of painted african whatever you call its on the planet to worry about.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenny

      So you would've been parenting irresponsibly, allow your child to fall, and then kill the dogs for doing what they do?

      November 4, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dike

    how would you know the fall did not kill the baby first. 14feet fall could have been fatal.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
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