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. Gina

    This is beyond stupid on the mother's behalf.

    I feel sorry for the 3 year old boy that was killed. What was she trying to do? Get on America's Funniest Home Videos or get a million hits on You Tube for seeing the dogs kill her baby? Of course my big question is where the heck was she? If I was her, I'd be holding the kid close to me or holding his hand. Not get on the ledge and fall to his death.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Stupid Parents

    So a poor animal had to die because of blatant STUPIDITY by that child's parents. I say prosecute the parents and fine them for their negligence. But of course 'MERICA is going to come out and they are probably going to try to sue the zoo...

    November 4, 2012 at 11:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. BOMBO ©

    It looks like I got raked over the coals for my previous comment. I'm not sure why. I suspected carelessness when the story first broke, and reports since then seem to indicate that. If friends or family are offended by the comparison to Michael Jackson then I'm sorry. As for many who have commented since then calling for prosecution or punishment for the mother, I ask what would be the bloody point? She has already done worse to herself than anyone else could do to her. If this was carelessness, let's all learn from it. Take those warning signs and fences seriously. I remember seeing a German kid climbing the railing at Athabasca falls a couple of years ago, his parents unconcerned. Idiots.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      What if Mom, sometime down the road gets pregnant and takes the next kid to the zoo? They have to determine if she was competent. Otherwise other children could be at risk. Anyone who does this is missing a cog on the gears. It's tragic, but very preventable.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Peggy Sue

    None of us have the whole story – we don't know how the child was able to fall in there. It's an incredibly horrific story. The zoo should definitely re-think how this display is set up. There should be no chance of any person being able to fall or jump or get into a pen with dangerous animals – there should be multiple layers of fencing, etc. it's incredibly sad.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Thanks for your radar sharp insights – no one had even considered redesigning the habitat after this incident.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Andrea Thumeyer

    its the stupids mothers fault, hope they don't do harm now to the painted dogs!

    November 4, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • TxTeacher

      Observation deck? There should have been a high chain link fence! I hope the zoo gets sued!

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

      This past May, the same dogs escaped from that same zoo due to a problem with the fence.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. pam

    where were the parents or caregivers??? these animals are wild-don't blame them. it sounds like the fence around that deck was not enclosed properly. so sad for that boy and bewildering for those animals. terrible they have to live in captivity to prevent them from becoming extinct. stupid humans.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • wendy

      Pam, the mother was the one who placed the child on the fence before he fell....other reports say that the child died from the fall, not from the dogs.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Alex

    To all the people who say its disgusting to kill this animal in attempt to save a child are ignorant to the fact that at the end of the day they are going to be animals....this kid could've had a world changing future.....something an animal can't compete with.....plus u guys are humans as well, I don't know how you don't have your own kinds back....always do whatever it takes to save humans.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • b

      There are 7 billion humans on earth, and only 5000 of these. Humans won't be going extinct anytime soon

      November 4, 2012 at 11:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. guest

    I've read this article and it does not state where were the parents. My prayers are with the parents. But I think when you see your child in danger your instincts jump in and your goal is to save your child. Why didn't the parents jump in to save this child. This is the only disturbing thing about this article no mention of the parents attempting to save their own child. Wild animals or a human being attacking your child, you should have tried.

    The article states visitors alerted the staff. While the visitors alerted the staff, someone, anyone should at least jumped in to save this defenseless child.

    The animals that attacked the child should be euthanized.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • wendy

      mom was the one who put the child on the fence before he fell, how bout euthanize the mom who killed their child.

      November 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • chaos

      Why would you euthanize the dogs? They are doing what comes as a natural instinct. While it is sad, it sounds like the mother is at fault and did something stupid. Maybe child endangerment is more appropriate against the mother. Stupid to say to kill the dogs. Makes no sense.

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

    Parents need to look out more for their kids, especially the toddlers.

    Surprised nobody jumped in to try and help the little boy.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • parents worst nightmare

      I live in pitts these same dogs escaped their pit in may 2012 by digging out under the fence luckily no one was hurt that time

      November 4, 2012 at 11:42 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Brad76

    Attempting to lure them away is what killed that poor boy. They should have shot those dogs DEAD ASAP. They are ANIMALS, animal lives are not more important than human lives. This story is infuriating!!

    November 4, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      Agreed!!!

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

      Yes, shoot the dogs for doing what comes natural to them. That makes a lot of sense... NOT! There's 7 billion humans and 5,000 of those dogs.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy Mac

      Halleluiah. Also halleluiah to everyone blaming the Mom. She should have jumped in there. i am 100% positive I would have if it was my kid – pretty sure I would have for someone else's too. If I had a gun, i would shoot every last dog if I had to to save 1 person. Some people on this board shock me that they care about that dog. In my book that do is no different than the chicken sandwich I ate for lunch – at least the chicken tastes good.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy Mac

      I was starting to think... that poor Mom but I have a hard time feeling bad since she did not jump in I saw that place, it was not a far jump if your 2 year old is in there with wild dogs. I am just sick over this. Anyone who does not jump in there to save their 2 year old child... I cannot feel sorry for them.... especially when she dropped the poor kid.

      People who care about the dog – I can't believe you people. Do you eat meat? If you do you are a hypocrite.

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

    They should have gone in there with 12 ga shotguns and shot anything showing teeth! I could give a frog's fat ass how rare or beautiful they are...I'd rather read about 10 dead painted dogs killed by shotgun because they were going to kill a 3 year old rather than the above headline.....too sad....:(

    November 4, 2012 at 11:48 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Thinker

    Some times ago in San Fransisco Zoo, three drunk provoked the tiger.The tiger jumped out from the cage. Hurt the drunks. Drunk got big settlement. History has a strange way of repeating.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Paula

    For these saying that someone should have gone in to rescue the child. These animals will hunt Zebras warthogs and buffalo so a human adult would be no problem to them. Why did the mother put the child in such danger in the first place?

    November 4, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • parents worst nightmare

      we all make stupid decisions she just made one she will not be able to live with

      November 4, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Leroy Jenkins

    If you are an adult at the zoo supervising a 3 year old, and the child gets into an animal display, then it's YOUR fault.
    PERIOD !!
    If, in fact, the mother is to blame, then I call this incident simply an exercise in degenerate people population control.
    No loss.
    Thank god for the gap in that families generation. One less depending on Obamas "redisribution of wealth."

    November 4, 2012 at 11:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Elizabeth

      Keep your politics out of this because this article has nothing to do with how people vote or how the parents voted.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  15. InfectedHumans

    I feel really sorry for the mom's loss of her innocent child for whatever reason. So they killed an endangered species dog in attemting to save this helpless child. We can clone the darn animal. I am curious if those posting more outrage and care for the endangered ( not so much) dogs are the face of atheism or Gaia lovers that value humans the least amongst the creatures of the earth.

    November 4, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
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