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. Moose muffin

    Yup, it is the parents fault. Children that age wiggle and squirm. Very easy to pull away and lose hold.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      You don't let them "wiggle and squirm" away toward an exhibit with wild dogs and a 14 foot drop! Just like you don't let em wiggle and squirm their way into traffic, onto train tracks, etc.. Being able to keep ahold of your child is kind of a required skill in parenthood. If you can't hang onto a three year old when there are serious dangers nearby, you really should not be having children.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:52 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Don

    The actions by the mother were so reckless the possibility of them being deliberate should be considered. My wife would never have allowed her babies anywhere near a ledge like that, and I guarantee should an accident like that ever happened, she would have followed her baby down, dogs and 14 feet not withstanding. There has never been a day in my wife's life that she would not have sacrificed her life trying to protect her babies.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • parents worst nightmare

      well lets pray you never have to prove yourself and please quit commenting on things you don't know. how do you know she did not try to get down into the pit???

      November 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • perfesser

      And you, Father???

      November 4, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • dion

      You have been watching too many movies. Those dogs are not match for any human who is unarmed entering in such a environment. Those dogs would have torn any human up. First the legs, then the thigh, you fall down then its everywhere and its all over. As they said its a pack mentality similar to a mob scene.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • kandy321

      Hey Casey Anthony, next time toss them into a pit of wild dogs. No court, no media, and no jail time.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Dion is spot on accurate. Don is living in a fantasyland. A simple google search will teach Don that these "dogs" can kill zebras and wildebeests. African buffalo, and even immature giraffes. If these dogs can kill animals that are 4-6 times larger and heavier than a human, then Don needs to spend less time watching TV and more time learning about the world.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:39 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Linda Ardizzone

    I would not put my dog on the railing much less my child. That was really bad judgment on the part of the parent. Any slight slip on the railing could result in a fall. What in the world was she thinking? Or WAS she thinking? This is a sad story for all concerned but particularly for the child who paid for this mistake with his life. Someone mentioned that she will probably sue. In many cases when people sue they seek to hold someone else accountable for their own failures rather than face the fact that they made a mistake, learn from it and move on. It is simply too painful for them to take responsibility. Hopefully she will not do that. Only time will tell. RIP little one. 🙁

    November 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Screen2011

    The child is the tragedy here. All the pathetic losers who dont care about the kid because they will never have any must know living in thei safe shell does not mean your time will not come, there will be just no one to cry or care when it happens. It will truly be just nature taking its course.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • kandy321

      Isn't that kind of selfish to want someone to cry for you? I wouldn't want someone I loved to be sad. Is that why people spit out offspring, is to have someone cry for them at the end of their lives. I know women spit them out to have someone take care of them when they get old, because the first thing they say to me when I say I've produced no offspring is "well who's going to take care of you when you get old?"

      November 4, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. David Stemple

    Was there no one there to jump in after him and help the boy don't know about anyone else but I would have jumped the ledge after him and taken my chances with the dogs till the zoo staff got there.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • snookers

      14 feet is pretty discouraging

      November 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • kandy321

      There were a lot of people screaming for someone to do something, yet these screamers did nothing.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • wycliffewy

      What kind of parent wouldn't jump in right after the kid?

      November 4, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • dion

      Your instinct for survival kicks in and these ain't no hampsters or gerbils down there. As a pack they know they are strong as they have the numbers. They can take down cows or any large animal just by the sheer tactic of wearing them out till they drop unless you can run from them. RUN? where would you go? Once your down they would tear you apart much like a chainsaw to beef side. Even if you could survive you would never be the same physically or mentally.
      So your still going to jump in?

      November 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barb Eberhart

      OMG exactly where my mind first went....I would be right there on top of my child taking the bites to sheild him/ tears me apart to know that child was down there alone while the neglectful...excuse my judgement, but that's what it was...parent looked on.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Udontget it!

      and you would die too!
      they would rip you apart...what i find scary is how many ppl sai or said they'd follow the boy down!
      not if you were there and witness'd it
      i saw them on you tube checkin out babyelephants these guys kill 70% of their attacks
      no human had a chance without a weapon!

      November 5, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. snookers

    Those animals were in a pretty large exhibit of 1.5 acres. Five of the dogs were born in the Zoo.
    Such a sad accident. Wonder what the observation deck looks like.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • mel

      i posted this several pages back but it got buried...
      This is my local zoo and what most people don't understand is the setup of the observation deck. It is enclosed on 2 out of 3 sides by very thick glass, the open end has a railing that comes up past my waist (i'm 5'8"), the railing is slanted towards the deck and there is a large net inside the enclosure just beyond the railing. There are also numerous signs posted about not climbing or leaning over, from the local reports we are getting, the mom lifted the son onto the railing and was holding him by the ankles so he could get a better view.
      While yes this is a tragic accident, I feel that the zoo is in no way responsible for this family's irresponsible actions and inability to follow the posted rules. She always could have easily walked an additional 20 feet to the 2nd viewing platform that is fully enclosed and tends to give a better view of the animals.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:29 pm | Report abuse |
  7. EGB

    What a horrible, tragic, needless loss. My heart bleeds for all who loved that little child. RIP little angel.

    November 4, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bruce

    this stupid MOTHER should be put in prison...for killing her kid AND MAKING EVRYONE watch....what a stupid IDIOT

    November 4, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • perfesser

      And the child's Father is free of guilt??

      November 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don K

      Oh look; a Romney supporter..... "Blame the woman only"

      November 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abby

      Perfesser- father wasn't at the zoo with them.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • JWolff24

      The dad wasn't even at the zoo according to news reports

      November 4, 2012 at 9:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. kandy321

    That's a unique way of killing your children and making it appear to be an accident. Lift them up onto a railing, where on the other side awaits a pack of dogs, lions, bears, etc. To bad Casey Anthony or her father didn't think of that.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Andy

    Wow, no one jumped over to help the kid?

    November 4, 2012 at 7:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fsjunkie

      Too busy Tweeting and Instagram-ing.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • lol

      Nearly 80% of all wild dog hunts end in a kill. You still jumping?

      November 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Robert

    No one ever thinks it can happen to them. As for the dogs, they didn't know any better.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Report abuse |
  12. hockeygirlzmom

    I am a mother, yes I have done some dumb things...but NEVER have I ignored safety warnings in any environment where the welfare of my children or myself were at risk. I have no doubt she loved her child but she made a shockingly bad decision. She will have to live with her actions for the rest of her life. God bless that baby.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
  13. IvyLeagueMamaLlama

    How did this happen?

    November 4, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ExPAVIC

    Eating Machine

    The dogs involved in this incident are regarded as one of the most fierce breeds in all of Africa.

    Rest assured, after the first minute or so there wasn't much left of that child despite what efforts may have been attempted.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:26 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bob Croesus

    A similar thing happend at the Hershey Zoo many many years ago. A small girl fell into a bear pit. Very sad.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:27 pm | Report abuse |
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