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. Tsagman

    Here's the way it should have gone. 1. Yes,..the parents were stupid and irresponsible to let the child get that close to the pen. 2. The fact is the child fell in. 3. It's not the child's fault that his parents are stupid. 4. We all love wild animals, but not more than our children. 5. These dogs are predators,...meat eaters. 6. Knowing that, every dog that displayed aggression to the child should have been shot. This is a child we're talking about. 7. After the child is removed from the pen,...the parents should have been arrested and charged with child endangerment. The zoo should be held accountable for letting ANYONE get too close to the edge of a pen that contained wild carnivores. Bottom line,...this was an innocent child that was torn to pieces while he was still alive. Those of you that say they don't condone the killing of defenseless animals didn't have their 3 year old child at the mercy of these animals. If you had a gun in your hand when your child fell in,...I imagine you would have done everything you could to protect your child. If you wouldn't do it,...I'm in fear for any children you do have.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. pam

    Sad, sad situation. I'm sure the Mom feels like dying herself....a horrible accident. Unfortunately, accidents happen all the time. If it had been my child, and I had a gun, I probably would have started shooting. BUT, when you start shooting at a pack of wild animals ( with the child in the mix ) , how do you shoot the animals without shooting the child too ???? And, yes, to some people, they will always feel human life is more important than an animal....that is not black and white !! These animals are here from God, just like humans. Who gets to decide who is more important ?
    My heart goes out to the family.....

    November 4, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kiminminn

      Come on now! There are signs in every zoo I have been to warning to be wary of the animals.This poor little boy's mother did this to him. Animals are animals and you cannot blame them for doing what is natural. The one and only person responsible for – regardless of how sad and horrible – is the mother that lifted him on to the fence.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daisy

      Dear Pam: You ask who gets to decide which life is more important, an animal's or a human's. Pam, when you need to have a medical procedure done, involving anaesthesia and incisions, when you have a crown put on a tooth, when you drive at 55 MPH on roads built by someone else, when you listen to a beautiful orchestra, when you watch a great movie, when you read a masterpiece, when you have a grandchild, and when you bury your own child, Pam, then and only then, Pam, will you understand the answer to your rhetorical question.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • stines

      It's not a matter of who gets to decide. Ask yourself this question, if it were my 3 year old boy who fell and I had a gun to kill any animal that is about to shred him to peices, will I shoot? My answer as a parent or as a witness is yes I will. It's a horrible accident no matter who is to blame. The blame only matters as a way to learn from the mistake. It's not what should be used to make a decision as to whether or not the little boy's life should be saved. The focus should have been how can we save his life. If it's even possible.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Bill

    Does anybody know if they plan on eating the animal?

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

      yes. with a side of penguin casarole

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

      Bill, please tell me that you are a mental patient that just escaped for a second to write this. That is the only way I will be able to sleep tonight. No human being with any amount of feeling or empathy could find a moment to joke about something so horrible. A child has died and you have time to joke? It is time to wise up...tragedy can affect any one of us at any minute...

      November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gary168

      I have a great sense of humor, but that's not funny. Somebody just lost their child, and if it was your kid you'd be appalled too

      November 4, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jack MeHauf

      Dani – A child died, where were the parents? It's just God thinning the herd..

      November 4, 2012 at 8:31 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Josh

    I've been to Pittsburgh Zoo multiple times. I can assure you the exhibits are secure and would require conscious effort or extreme negligence in order to fall in. I feel for the mother but given the measures taken by the zoo to ensure safety, she is undoubtedly at fault. With that in mind, you cannot blame a wild animal for acting like a wild animal.

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

      They will probably close that exhibit for a while. Some nut case could try to harm the remaining dogs. It is hard to make a Zoo complete idiot proof and still allow decent access to the public. But I bet they will change the observation deck and have no more railing.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reasonabl

      I agree....she put her son on top of the 5 ft. railing......

      November 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CM

    Of course it's the guardians' fault this happened in the first place but give me a break these people all worried about one of these dogs being shot. I bet they don't have kids of their own. Only in USA would there be more pain felt for a stupid dog than an innocent baby boy. Idiots

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

      In your case CM, I know a dog is more intelligent then you. Calling a dog stupid is beyond being stupid you fool.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      What is stupid is taking the time to try and show how right you are instead of getting down on your hands and knees and praying for these poor people who have lost a child in such a tragic manner (and for the child who had to endure this).

      November 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist


      Praying isn't going to do a thing, get over it. Stuff happens as it always has and always will. Prayer doesn't change a thing.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Kiminminn

    So this stupid stupid woman put her child up on the fence? SHE caused his death. I have been to zoos and there are multiple barriers and signs not to get too close. I hurt for the child - but if his mother had not been so STUPID this would not have happened.

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

      Well, we should all just send a memo to God right now explaining that we do not need his services to judge us at the end -we already have you to do this for us! Fabulous...he can take a vacation now! Let me get this straight -a child has died in the most horrific manner possible in front of her parents and this is where you are mentally? Wow...

      November 4, 2012 at 8:22 pm | Report abuse |
  7. northerstar

    There is nothing in this article to determine who (if anyone) was to blame. It is a tragic event; lets hold off on the unfair & silly comments.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • msdlmoore01

      So, the dogs climbed up the enclosure and they unison...lifted the child from the mother's arms and pushed the kid in the pit. Nope, didn't happen. Mother is at fault 100%.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Drayton Ashford

    There is NO words that I can say to ease the PAIN the Parents are feeling right now. The dogs acted like there making,the dogs are KILLERS THAT TRAVEL IN PACKS.The dogs kill ANYTHING THAT IS EATABLE.However,extint or NOT.THE CHILD COMES 1ST,NOT A WILD ANIMAL.The Zoo should have had MUCH BETTER protective walls.Knowing this breed of ANIMAL KILLS ANYTHING THAT BREATES:-(

    November 4, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Emigdio Alvarez

    they should let painted dogs go extinct.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Dennis

    Their was an accident. A child fell off a rail. This rail unfortunately was around an enclosure for wild animals. The wild animals got to the child, and now we have a tragedy. The mother needs to keep a hand on her child, but she's not a demon who murdered her child, she and her child both are the victims of an accident. The wild animals were just being wild animals, you could justifiably shoot every single one, but that's up to the person responding. Bear in mind, if your shooting 11 moving targets around a baby, you stand a good chance of hitting said baby. With the speed a wild animal will react and maul something, their was probably no time for anyone except the mother to react in a meaningful way. And aside from jumping in and covering the child, I don't think their is much she could have done.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Grammarian

      Because the very first word of your comment is "Their" instead of "There," the rest of your comment immediately lacks credibility. Read a book and learn the difference between these 2 basic words before you show the world how ignorant you are.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • ELH

      To the Grammerian and Andy–

      It must be a great comfort to be so perfect in your use of the American English language. By the by, a mispelled[sic] word or two does not alter the sense of an argument.

      In any case, I find your comments offensive in the extreme and thus discount anything you might have to say on the subject of this article. In the words of a famous educator, U. P. Yours, "shove it where the sun don't shine."

      November 4, 2012 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andy

      ELH – your reply only solidifies how uneducated you are. What the hell does "by the by" mean?

      November 4, 2012 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  11. KillPoachers

    Why they shoot the dog for? Stupid kid fell in, that's nature. at work. Sorry, when an animal brutally kills another animal you say that is nature. Well this little boy getting ripped apart like a ragdoll is also nature. It's not exactly a good situation, but can't blame the dogs held in captivity as if they were some commodity generating revenues for humans.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • snookers

      It was not the 3 year old kid that was stupid.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Report abuse |
  12. clarke

    I read the details in the Piittsburg paper. Mom put the boy on the top of a wooden railing and he lost his balance right away. There was also a mesh netting of some kind, but that did not break his fall. The mother will have to live with that for the rest of her life, how terrible for this little boy and his parents. Awful, awful accident.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
  13. chickenflag

    Mother is at fault 100%, no reason to have a child on a railing that is overlooking a wild animal enclosure, I'm sure they will try to sue and I hope they don't win. Animals aren't at fault and neither are the police/first responders.

    November 4, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      Once again -I've found someone who we can now send a memo to God that we do not need his services to judge us at the end...we have you! Take some time to reflect and have some compassion for this poor family. This is an absolute tragedy...

      November 4, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Jake

    NO ONE should be able to 'fall' into an animal exhibit. I feel a multimillion $ lawsuit with pnitive damages is in the offinig. Fire the Zoo Director for a start

    November 4, 2012 at 8:20 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chickenflag

    I'm bet the mother was on her phone as the baby fell ...

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