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. Cindy

    I pray for comfort to this child's family and also for those who have nothing more constructive to do than to write careless and hurtful comments. The article does not specify how the child fell, but so many are so quick to jump in and condemn the parents. How many times have your own children been out of your sight for "just a second" in which a tragedy did not happen? Unfortunately, whether the parents were right there or two feet away, accidents do occur. Our hearts should be with the grieving family – not against them.

    November 4, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pittsburgh zoo member

      The mother actually stood the kid up on the railing–there are several signs there saying not to do that–and then lost her grip. The news outlets here in Pittsburgh are naturally more up to date on this story. So it was the mom's fault, which just makes this tragic story even more sad,

      November 4, 2012 at 10:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cindy

      Not residing in Pittsburgh, I was not aware of the full details of the story. However, I still believe more in compassion than condemnation. This poor mother will live with her mistake for the rest of her life. She does not need hundreds of "shame on you" fingers pointed at her, as the grief of losing her child is more punishment than anyone can imagine.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jay

    Poor dog just living his life and gets shot because of irresponsible people.

    November 4, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ralph M

      And no word about where the kids parents were.

      November 4, 2012 at 10:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Frank D. in Trooper, Pa

      Let's see is blaming the dogs for killing her child, mom takes not one single ounce of responsibility. An adrenaline infused cop who never used his firearm before shoots and kills an endangered animal. Where is the justice for the animal? They're there doing whatever it is that African (not a slur) painted dogs do and out of nowhere a meal falls from the sky. This is more tha likely the first time they got to hunt in about um..... forever. We should never blame or kill a wild animal that is in captivity, they are just doing what they do and they cant help that their animal instincts kick in. 100% of the time it is man that is wrong. This incident proves it yet again.

      November 4, 2012 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stupid Parents

      Frank....I could not agree with you any more. Also, the child was probably seen as a threat. The child fell into their "home", most likely making an extreme amount of they protected their home. Would people not do the same thing if it was possible for someone to fall into their house screaming and yelling? Maybe an extreme example...but you get the point

      November 4, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Donna

    Personally I think they should eradicate all more imprisonment of innocent animals....

    November 4, 2012 at 10:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey1313

      Dona, most animals in zoos would already be extinct due to poaching if the zoos were not around. So sorry but you FAIL

      November 4, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Donna

    I really hope this mother was not hoping to get that once in a lifetime video that she could upload to You Tube...

    November 4, 2012 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  5. gale

    Wait, how is it that the exhibit even has the possibility of someone falling into it? Did I read it wrong? I don't live near there so have no idea how it is set up. I live in Houston and we take our grandkids to the Houston Zoo all the time. There is not one single exhibit that someone could fall into. This is so sad.

    November 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Katie

      The deck was reported to be 11-14 ft high. That's higher than guard rails of most bridges. They more than met reasonable protections, but the mother was unreasonably stupid.

      November 4, 2012 at 10:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. TODAY


    November 4, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Bonzai

    My heart goes out to the family. That being said as a mother nothing could have kept me from jumping over right along with my child. I would give my life without hesitation. That poor little boy.

    November 4, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jade

      We all like to think we would have been the hero, but when it comes down to it there was little anyone could do against a pack of dogs with an incredible prey drive; especially given the distance one would have to jump. The harsh reality is that if someone (or even multiple people) went after the child, it probably would have resulted in additional loss of life. What a tragic experience for all involved.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:22 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Thinker

    The mother was negligent. She should be prosecuted. Set an example.

    November 4, 2012 at 10:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      There is no indication whatsoever that the kid was in the zoo with his mom, you tool. Why dont you wait until you have the relevant information before starting to run your mouth??

      November 4, 2012 at 11:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thinker

      Bob the lawyer, three year old does not go to zoo by himself. He was with mama.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pebbles

      Hey "BOB" the moron, The child was put up on the ledge of the fence by his mother and she lost grip of him and he fell. Next time try and use "GOOGLE" and do a little research for yourself before you call names .

      November 5, 2012 at 12:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. Thinker

    Millions of $$$$$$$$$$ lawsuit on the way.

    November 4, 2012 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  10. TheGreenMan

    African nonAmerican people have traditionally been part of the food chain for painted dogs.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • chris3

      The Greenman i am African and not American...what the hell are you talking about? We are part of the food chain? Let me be the bearer of bad news for you...we live amicably with these dogs now you come visit and it will be a thanksgiving feast for them. They love ignorant blood something you have 100% of.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. David Hainsworth

    Is there anything that people won't fight and argue about? Anything? Even something as awful as this? May God have mercy on us all..

    November 4, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Thinker

    Do not cry Mama, you won Lotto. Smile.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • c

      what a sick thing to say!

      November 4, 2012 at 11:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • greg

      The entire humanity should be ashamed/embarassed by your comment and you

      November 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. monica

    My heart and prayers goes out to the family for there loss. I hate to say it but, the mother was " DEAD" wrong and the baby had to pay for it.. She had to know what she was doing. The baby had no chance of life when he fell over. The dogs were not at fault and should not be killed. Those animals are innocent and the parent is GUILTY. It's just a shame something like this has to happen for people to wise up and think twice before making a stupid move, or at least I hope they do.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Charlotte

    Well I hope they don't blame the dogs. They were simply doing what is their natural instinct. It sounds like the mother is the real responsible party (or more like irresponsible) here. the Zoo probably is not at fault – how the f*** did the kid get up where it could fall in the first place? Negligence on the part of the supervising adult.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Charlotte

    Oh, so now Daniela is resorting to name-calling because people who are better and more intelligent than her point out the idiocy of blaming the animals. Well, what a surprise. Not.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Report abuse |
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