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. wildone

    Poor child. What a horrible thing to happen.

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

    Dayhum nature...YOU SCARY!!!

    November 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Daisy

    The dogs should have been shot immediately. Immediately. Forget the darts. This is a BABY. What a bunch of losers. And all these comments bemoaning the loss of the 'beautiful' animals convince me this country is beyond hope. You equate wild predators with a little baby?? You are insane, and you are evil. And the "mother" who put her child on the rail? She was 34 years old, not a teenager. She is another, longer story and the facts are not all in. But she killed her baby. Those screams will follow her into eternity.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Blondie

      Oh please, they were just doing what they are made to. The PARENTS are at fault here, not the dogs.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • hilreal

      What? Shoot the dogs because of some bone headed human? The mother should be neutered and put in jail. There are 5,000 of these dogs left in the world but millions of idiots like this one. Perhaps it is best that this gene line end. It's called evolution of the fittest.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • NIK

      Sympathy for the idiotic? Thanks but no thanks. All zoos have safety measures not only to keep animals in, but stupid people out. How the heck did this three year old fall into the enclosure? I'll put money on it being an inattentive guardian or said guardian trying to let the kid get a better look. Yes, it is a tragedy, but it is a much worse tragedy that a species so close to extinction loses another member thanks to the stupidity of one man.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • 2/8

      ...who was watching the baby? And quit talking, please, you're a little too pro-killing.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilac

      Hazy Dazy,
      Yes they are beautiful animals and so are we. The fact that the child fell 14 feet was her fault not the dogs. The dogs had their space and while this is a tragic situation she should have been more cautious and not living in some movie fantasy land. The country that is 'beyond hope' is the country that is so out of touch with reality.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • wcbhwk

      You are absolutely right. I don't care if there are 5 in existence! A human life versus a bunch of animals. No contest!

      November 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • snookers

      The dogs apparently attacked immediately. The little boy was killed probably in a few minutes or was already unconscious from the fall.. One can hope. Besides, pretty diffiicult to shoot without hurting the baby in such a situation.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob Knippel

      And how long do you think a three year old would last in an attack by a pack of carnivorous wild dogs? The poor kid was probably ripped to shreds in a matter of seconds and pretty much eaten alive. A rifle would have been best used in mercifully shooting the kid to put him out of his misery, if he was even alive at that point.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justobservin

      Yes, the guard tower at the zoo should have opened fire, and/or any of the dozens of heavily armed zoo security staff. This took about 20 seconds to happen, and even if there were an imaginary armed staff guarding the exhibit, the kid would get shot, too. I'd check the tape, did the parent's throw him in?

      November 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daisy

      I meant that the dogs should have been shot immediately to save the life of the child. This was not done because officials were dithering around with DARTS. The writer who said "you reap what you sow" is evil to the core. This was a BABY being torn to bits, screaming as he left this life. You people who are more upset about the death of the dog have some inner vacuum that makes you inhuman. The dogs should have been destroyed to rescue the child, if they would not leave him alone. Of course, extinction of any species is a tragedy. But a helpless child being torn to bits by wild creatures is a crime against the human race. Decent people understand that.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • ron

      Yeah, they have armed guards standing by every exhibit so the animals can be shot before harming someone.

      Moron. The child was probably hurt before someone could get there with a REAL gun (not a dart gun). shooting the animals after the fact makes no sense.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Daisy, thank you for proving that not all of CNN's posters are ignorant subhumans that worship animals and ridicule a family that suffers a human tragedy. The level of depravity shown by many posters on here is why the vast majority of Americans agree with you that the country is in decline. As long as "people" think that animals should be defended and innocent children can be killed instead, those people will viewed for what they are..... subhumans that deserve the ridicule they reap.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      They really should've been quicker to break the glass on the emergency rifle cabinet. The only reason there was a gun at all was because a cop was there.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      If you look into some of the Pittsburgh news outlets, it says she was holding the kid over or on the railing to see the dogs

      November 4, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • jay

      daisy if it makes you feel any better... a three year old falling from 14 feet high would probably be knocked out.. so he/she didn't suffer too much and if they did dogs.. normally attack the throat so it was over fast.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • snookers

      The dogs attacked immediately. There really was no way and no time to prevent the killing after the baby fell into the exhibit. Even wild shooting would have taking too long. Besides the baby could have been shot too. If about 20 to 30 loud screaming people would have jumped in within seconds after the fall, may be that would have intimidated the dogs.. But just one person like the mother could have ended up with two bodies.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wilemutt

      Well, Daisy, I guess you better go find Donald, because he's a duck, too, like you. Where is your mind? The mother should have been slapping the crap out of this kid, or at the very minimum, grabbing him off of that rail! You know that is true.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mister Nuke

      Calm the hell down. Most of the dogs never touched the kid – who might have already have been dead from the fall anyway. Your mindless self-righteousness adds nothing.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |
    • .

      you should try to be a little less vicious Daisy. try instead to have a bit of compassion for all involved. no one did this on purpose. have you ever made a mistake?

      November 5, 2012 at 2:38 am | Report abuse |
    • biff mcguzzle

      Daisy, that kid was dead within seconds of being attacked. I do not have to have been there to know that by the time the staff was able to respond that there was little left of his body.Killing the animals served no purpose.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      Daisy: I meant that the dogs should have been shot immediately to save the life of the child. This was not done because officials were dithering around with DARTS."

      Daisy, the child was already dead. There wasn't anything anyone could have done to save him. They were just trying to get them away from the body.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
  4. mizh

    This is the most disturbing news I've read in awhile and it's easy to people to toss around who was at fault. I don't know exactly what happened, but the parents will have to live with it for the rest of their lives. Lay off the blame, people.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Report abuse |
  5. wcbhwk

    If it was my child, I would have jumped in no matter what. 14 feet, 40 feet. Who cares! What parent wouldn't die trying to save their child? You would have had to tie me down to keep me out of there. Boggles the mind.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      I completely agree with you and my husband keeps saying the same thing. However, when something like this happens, it is hard to say what you would really do when faced with such a horrible situation -perhaps the folks around were paralyzed by grief to do anything? I don't know. All I know is that this is my zoo here in Pittsburgh and I have a child the same age and it makes me physically ill. I am so very sorry for their loss and for this sweet little angel who had to die this way. How we take for granted every day that we have on our Earth that is not filled with tragedy...this little child was excited to go to the zoo today I'm sure...and now we have a complete tragedy on our hands. It is time to wake up and really treat our loved ones well...things can happen in an instant and lives can be changed forever.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Justobservin

      a ridiculous statement. Jump 14 feet to retrieve dead kid with then broken ankles. Worry about the pack of animals later. Great plan.

      they have chain link fence around the ivy at wrigley field to keep the drunks from falling in, is this technology not available at the zoo?

      November 4, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • more common sense than you

      if this were my child, I would not have put him into the dangerous position of falling into the pit to begin with!

      November 5, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      14 feet and broken ankles be damned. If it's my kid I'm going in after him. I suspect the women was incapable of going over the fence (not many Americans can scale even a four foot fence!). If she WAS capable she would have.

      A little nasty voice in the back of my mind wonders if this was a passive aggressive move by the mother to rid herself of the kid....a little "oops" and it looks like an accident and she's free and clear. Sorry, no one is THAT STUPID to put their baby on the edge of a fence full of predators, and then stand by and watch him fall. NO ONE!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mom in Naples

      This tragedy has just broken my heart. Why didn't someone just jump over the fence? I have faced numerous emergency situations (a plane crashing into my office building, car accidents, a brother lost on the Appalachian Trail while we were hiking, a child choking to death) and I can tell you, I acted, I moved and with the grace of God, saved some lives. But I can also say that people I love and know for a fact are brave and strong, as well as strangers who were with me during these situations, stood by and did nothing during those critical few minutes that decide between life and death. I am not a first responder, a doctor or in the armed forces. But my experience from being in some unique life and death situations is that most people seem to freeze momentarily, or they panic and babble or scream or run away. Perhaps if I am in another emergency I might panic too, so I can't blame them, but it is very hard not to feel anger and grief thinking about that poor baby and why someone didn't just try. Pick the kid up and just stand up. I realize the danger of wild animals. My mother was born and raised in the jungles of Africa, in the Congo, by missionary parents. So I grew up hearing about these things, death and maiming by animals, in the villages and in the missionary stations, and my mother's own sister died as a child there. Yes, an adult would have probably been hurt and maybe taken down by the animals. But I wonder if our society doesn't train us to ACT. We are all so afraid of letting our kids play outside, recess time and playground time is so limited, the honor and strength of being a man is diminished oftentimes in our culture, and perhaps we live in such a relatively safe environment that as a people, we are not explosed to real danger very often. And thank God for that. We have police and firemen and first responders in our country. In our country, if a child goes missing or is hurt or murdered, it is a national event. In many countries, this is not news. Its just life. There is no medical care and no 911. And maybe an event like this is not something one can train for, but maybe we can think about what we might do the next time, if there is a time, we are in an emgency, and we can talk to our older children about it. I would rather die trying that stand by idle. I know this is a story I will never forget my entire life, and I pray, pray, pray that somehow the people who loved this child will find the strength to go on when everything around them throws in their face the fact that their precious child is no longer on this Earth.

      November 7, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Mom

    The mom put him on the ledge? That's awful. I don't see where it says that. But if so, how terrible. You DON'T do that. Any ledge is a danger, let alone one leading to angry dogs.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiminminn

      I read on another site that she put him up on the ledge. Horrific but STUPID STUPID STUPID. She and she alone caused the little boy's death.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm | Report abuse |
  7. wcbhwk

    And as far as the animals go, the police officer should have shot every one attacking the child. A human life vs. a bunch of dogs (no matter how endangered). No contest, whatsoever.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • NIK

      A previous responder said it best... Sacrifice a group of endangered animals so that one more idiot can live? There are millions of idiots already on this planet. We don't need any more... Yes, it's a tragedy, but the zoos build enclosures to keep animals in and stupid people out. This three year old had help, either from an inattentive guardian or one trying to help him get a better look. Idiots like that reap what they sow.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      I agree with you and am sickened by people who have the mentality to defend the animals. What a world we live in

      November 4, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • wcbhwk

      A defenseless three year old child is not an idiot, so you argument has no merit whatsoever.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      And you did not read the story fully. The boy was already DEAD by the time the rifles arrived. Only zoo personnel were there and they only had darts. You really think that the cops or anyone else is gonna stand by and watch the dogs eat the boy alive??? Get serious and get your head out of your pucker man.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Report abuse |
  8. fritz

    I don't get it. Why didn't someone jump in and cover the kid!? 14 feet?? That's nothing for a full grown man! Hang and drop! Was it all women around screaming? Any able bodied guy there is an outright pusscake for just standng there and screaming with the women!! Those are wild dogs! Not lions! They're scavengers and predators of small animals! Not full grown human males! Miserable weiners!

    November 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • snookers

      It was a pack of dogs that attacked. Just as fatal and dangerous as a single full grown lion or tiger.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robert

      Actually, they're pretty vicious creatures. They take down live prey and eat it while it's alive. Very gruesome. The kid was gone the minute he fell in. Sad on all accounts.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Agreed. If any able bodied person was there they should have done something. Honestly, I'm not sure if anyone there was anyone there capable of scaling even the small fence to make the jump, but if they were there and they didn't, well, they are cowards.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. moose1

    Where in the hell were the parents while this was going on?

    I think maybe they need to be tossed in with the dogs!!

    November 4, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiminminn

      The idiot mother put him up on the ledge. It is her fault this happened == as horrible as it is == it is her fault.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Steven

    "and visitors quickly alerted staff" Screw these damn heartless wuzzy visitors. I would've jumped down with the little boy and do what ever I can to protect him. NO QUESTIONS ASK!

    November 4, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • dion

      YOU against 11 dogs?

      November 4, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. dion

    Read more in the Pittsburgh Post-gazette about the details. Comment from a police office says:

    "Pittsburgh police Major Crimes Lt. Kevin Kraus said the boy's 34-year-old mother placed the child in a standing position on a wooden railing overlooking the enclosure."

    As they reached the painted dog exhibit, she saw a small crowd of distressed onlookers. "One woman with a baby in the stroller was screaming that someone needed to do something," Ms. Cinti said. She said she could see the little boy's apparently lifeless body lying on the hill inside the exhibit. "There were three dogs: one at his head, one on the left side of his neck and another one down by his leg. ... A [zoo employee] got there and hopped over a fence with a rake and he was banging ... trying to distract the dogs but they wouldn't move," she said.

    This is nature and it ain't always like Bambi

    November 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Catlover

    Someone must havevseen what happened.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiminminn

      Many people saw what happened. An idiot put her child up on the railing and he fell in to the exhibit. Poor little one died because he had a moron for a parent.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. lz

    What difference does it make who's fault it was....this was a child. Every effort should have been made to save his life. They should have shot every one of the dogs. I love animals. But when we start putting animal lives above human lives, especially that of a child, we have turned into a sick world. So, great, we still have the dogs. But that human life is gone forever. Let's worry about the fault later. They should have saved his life and shot the dogs.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liza

      I imagine the zoo people did what they could. One can only hope the boy died instantly without pain, but the stupid mother should not be allowed to have more children. Yes, maybe we should worry about fault and start taking responsibility for our own actions.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      You are drawing conclusions based on your pitiful emotions, not the facts. READ THE STORY!!!!! No one put the dogs
      in front of the boy's life. If you can't comment based on the facts, then don't comment.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Liza

    from what I read on other websites, the mother raised the child over the railing so that he could see better.
    all you idiots who want to kill the animals – think who is at fault here.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • scottie

      I agree... they also are not sure if the child was dead from the fall or from the dogs... so people need to keep their speculation to themselves until there is an answer. sheesh!

      November 4, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiminminn

      Complete fault of moronic parent

      November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  15. clarke

    What a terrible, terrible accident. I have no idea how the child fell over and into the pit. Poor baby, So sorry to the family that had to see this happen to their little one. The Zoo did what they could.

    November 4, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Report abuse |
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