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. Reality99

    I'd shoot every one of the dogs and then beat the snot out of all of the animal rights fanatics that whine and cry over death of an animal, while make jokes about the death of an innocent child. And the world will be better off in the process.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      And what would you do to the parents who let their kid climb on the railing and fall over? The railing there is over 5 feet high... The dogs were doing what instinct told them to do, protect themselves from an unknown threat and feed the pack.. People like you are why we should have controlled breeding programs you inbred redneck.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pghl

      Its the mothers fault. She was holding the child above the guardrails. So maybe they should just shoot all the irresponsible parents.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • DameDessa was the animals fault. We all know how they were all dying to be put in a zoo, hoping someday a child would come along and fall in so they can..... be animals.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      For doing what, acting exactly how nature intended? Shooting an endangered species that was kept apart from the public by safety walls isn't going to solve anything. And the dogs are depraved? You're the one who wants to kill these animals for doing exactly what nature intended and does on a daily basis EVERYWHERE in the world. A wolf is not depraved for killing a baby deer, but is for killing a baby human? You are every bit as much of an animal as every other living being on this earth, you just so happen to have the means to communicate. Too bad we can't take that from you because your spewing of stupidity is unfortunate.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan Fielding

      Your are an !d!ot, Likei it was the animals fault the kid fell. Someone needs to euthanize you, or at least sterilize you so you are not able to breed.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • krivka

      What did the dogs do to deserve your wrath? They are wild animals and did what they do. It is sad that a young person died, but this happens every day in some part of the world. I hope the parents get the help they need to deal with the tragedy.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rational Human Being

      Just shut up Reality99. It was the parent's fault so acting like the animals deserve to die is something an uneducated buffoon would think. If anything, the mother should be punished.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • rick

      reality: you are a big mouth moron.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daremonai

      Meh, ignore Reality99.. this is obviously someone who simply gets pleasure at being horrible, so a typical troll who gets their jollies by upsetting people.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abigail

      The dogs are wild anilmals. You throw food into their pen and this is what happens. 1. Mom should not have let this happen. 2. Mom should have jumped in herself to save her child. Waiting for zoo workers !??? I would have been in the pen in 2 seconds.

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

      I love animals but the life of a child is more important. I realize animals in a zoo did not choose this life and it is horrible, but if it were your kid, let me tell would not be on the side of the animals. For anyone not to be able to see this is a frightening individual to me -you value the life of an animal over a 3 year old???? Dear God...

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

      Yes, some idiots like Reality99 think that humans are not animals. Reality99 sounds like an animal. So can we kill it?

      November 4, 2012 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • akmac65

      R99....There were no "animal rights fanatics" making jokes. Your comment is at least as worthless as the non-existent ones you condemn.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tina

      The animals were placed in a protective fence, how is it the dog's fault? Humans act on instinct and eat the first damn thing they see in the wild as well. Even a baby deer is not spared or a cute squirrel. Just blame the parents and move on. Plus the reason these dogs are on the endangered list is because of humans that doesn't care a god damn thing about nature. Sooner or later all the animals will go extinct and you, Reality99, will probably go eating humans. 100% guaranteed. So thank the zoo for breeding more so your kind could go hunting or w/e you do with animals.

      November 4, 2012 at 10:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z

      I bet reality99 is a psychopathic hunter, one who can kill & chop up a living creature is proven to be a psychopath.
      Just like Paul Ryan, Romney's vice presidential pick. He makes his little kids kill etc innocent animals too. Pure sicko's!

      November 4, 2012 at 11:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jake R

      You've been watching way too many hollywood movies. You know what the best action would have really been? Not putting your kid on a safety railing in the first place, that's how you protect your child.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
    • jake

      I definately agree with the second part...

      November 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vigil

      I bet if the dogs weren't there, and the child simply died from the fall, you'd kick the snot out of Gravity for killing the poor little boy. Go you!

      November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
  2. kathleenrobinson425

    That poor child and poor mother. Bad judgment or not, she will live with the sight and sound of her child being torn at by wild dogs. Just like the mother or grandmother who backs the SUV over a child, they are to be pitied.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rational Human Being

      I don't pity stupid people whatsoever. I pity people who deserve it. This mother deserves no pity.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • SWbeth

      Kathleen you have restored my faith in humanity. Thank you for having compassion upon the parent in this tragedy. We all have the capacity to have a split second bad judgement call change our lives completely. The parent must have been a somewhat decent soul to take their child to the zoo today. They had hopes and dreams for their babe.. and they will forever be altered. I feel nothing but compassion for them.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lilac

      So does the mother that killed her children while under the influence.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:18 pm | Report abuse |
  3. alligator face

    yo call others who tell it like it is "sub human"?....LOL.....your an example of a complete idiot calling the dogs "depraved"....LOL......people in general are obviously much more intelligent than yourself....just sayin

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

    The parents are already subject to the WORST punishment possible for negligence. Losing a child is horrible and they will suffer second-guessing for the rest of their lives. But sympathy for a bad, split-second decision is one thing. Liability and reality is another – I hope that if a shyster lawsuit comes in claiming negligence on the zoo's part, and I suspect it will, that the Pittsburg Zoo defends itself and its animals to the last breath.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Chris mankey

    ""I'd shoot every one of the dogs and then beat the snot out of all of the animal rights fanatics that whine and cry over death of an animal, while make jokes about the death of an innocent child. And the world will be better off in the process."

    Why would you kill dogs for being dogs? It's tragic that the boy died, but these animals are animals. Don't understand the concept?

    November 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rich

    How is it possible that they let that kid die!!! Just shoot all the dogs. How do you enter the exhibit and not get to the child. If I were there with a gun you could not have stopped my from shooting every dog. I don't see how this happened.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Carey

      Rich – its a pack of dogs.... they move much faster and are (unfortunately) more efficient than even the quickest thinking observer/staff member.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna

      One dog was shot....the Pittsburgh Gazette has more details....

      November 4, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      Not true. The article describes an extended period of time when they "entered the enclosure", "fired darts into the cage", a policeman showed up. This had to go on for many many minutes. While they were fooling around trying all these things, the cop should have just shot all the dogs. Problem solve.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm not blaming the dogs. I don't know who to blame. But that's beside the point. You save the kid and kill the dogs.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      Mr. Wanna-be Hero, it seems like.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Oh yes, Rich. I am sure that had you had a gun you could have picked off the dogs and not hit the child that was down there. *rolls eyes*

      November 4, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z

      Rich is a psychopath hunter too?

      November 4, 2012 at 11:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Pebbles

    The mother should be charged for holding the child over the railing and dropping the child to it's death. Some people are so stupid , she may have had good intentions, but she had bad judgement and should be held liable.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • SWbeth

      Pebbles.. she has been held liable.. and sentenced to a lifetime without her precious child. You.. are a troll.

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

      I agree with you 100% Pebbles : )

      November 4, 2012 at 11:51 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dgfdg

    Horrible horrible horrible. What a tragedy.

    How can people be laying the full blame on the mother? What I want to know is how on earth a 3-year could have access to a pack of wild animals. Should these areas not be completely caged off?

    November 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      They ARE caged off.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • DameDessa

      If the dogs didn't get out of their enclosure, but in fact you ended up in their domain how is it anyone else fault but yours. Or in this case the mothers for holding a child over a open space.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • msdlmoore01

      Idiot, they are caged off. The idiot mother was holding up her kid and let go of him. The mother is negligent and should go to jail.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
  9. oh

    I'm just surprised that no one jumped in to rescue the poor kid. A couple of guys could've held those dogs at bay while police and security showed up.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • brian p

      A little kid like that was probably critically injured from the fall.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tiredoldman

      These dog are about the size of large Pitt Bulls and have the same jaw strength with no fear of attacking humans. A adult human would hard pressed to keep a pack of them at bay. Also more than likely after a 13 foot fall (almost 2 stories) the rescuer would have been injured himself and unable to even keep the dogs from attacking him. I still cant understand why the mother lifted her child completely over the 5 foot high fence surrounding the exhibit. My sympathy for her loss but she caused it not the zoo.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Beth

      Brian P, you are correct. In fact, they actually haven't determined if the dogs killed the boy or if the fall was the cause of death.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:56 am | Report abuse |
    • jake

      14 feet isn't too bad unless the kid fell on it's head, which in hindsight I surely hope that happened. A person might not have pressed the dogs, but it would have slowed them down. Even if the hypothetical man were to simply lay over a child with winter clothing on, the likelyhood of the child (and man) surviving would have been much higher.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rgcnn

    If it was my child, I would be 2 seconds behind my child to defend him. I would jump in even if it was not my child. Were there any witnesses?

    November 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abigail

      exactly rgcnn

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

      Defend him? Then you too would have been killed. If you had other children, it would not have been fair to them. I am sorry if that sounds mean but there is no way you could have defended yourself against a pack of wild dogs. Even if you had a gun in your hands you would have taken some of them but ulitmately the rest of the pack would have destroyed you.
      I would hope that had it been your child you would instead have had the sense not to have held him over the pen in the first place.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • sofia

      I would have jumped in after my child too without any regard to if I would have lived or died either or been injured by the fall. I would have died trying to protect the child, if even only sheltering him or her with my own body. I am not placing any judgement on the mother... she will have to live with this for the rest of her life and that is a terrible punishment all in itself.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
    • AM

      Minerna doesn't sound like a mean person but a coward

      November 7, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  11. zinger59

    Reality99 is a good reason why gun control is needed in the US. The painted dogs are wild and should not be compared to domestic breeds. Where was the Mother and how was this child allowed to gain access to the exhibit? I think maybe the world would be better off without YOU!

    November 4, 2012 at 2:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Finkelstein, Rosenberg, Cheetam, and Howe

      Zinger, let's not take this discussion out of context. I will look at it this way: My guns allow me to defend myself from ldiots like Reality99.

      November 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Z

      I totally agree with you : )

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

    The dogs did what comes natural to them. Theykilled and easy food source and would have eaten the child if it had not been removed from their enclosure. What my question is why was the observation platform built in such a way that a small child could actually fall into the pit? Someone has a lot of explaining to do as these are wild animals capable and have proven they can kill in an instant. I too feel sorry for the mother or father that had to witness their child being killed by dogs and nothing they could do to stop it.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pragmatist

      Why have thousands of people with their children visited the zoo and nothing happened to them? Let's just face reality: people, and sadly parents will do VERY stupid things. How far are we going to take the idiot-proofing of the world?

      November 5, 2012 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ashley

      It isn't possible that a child could just "fall into the pit." The exhibit is designed in such a way that no person, child or adult, could ever just accidentally fall into the enclosure. But it IS possible that someone could lift a child and stand him on the five foot high guard rail fifteen feet above the exhibit and then drop him. Which is exactly what happened.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Pghl

    U can't jump in... It's like a 18 foot drop. The mom held the child over the banister. It's really her fault. You can't fix stupidity.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • AM

      18 ft ! why not 20 ! Each time people add a few feet, as if it is to hide their level of guilt. Initially it was 11 ft. In addition if your watch the pictures you can see that one can climb over the fence and stand on a rail on the outside. So you can remove a person 's height from those 11 feet. And the ground is obviously soft. I understand people feel guilty and not everybody is a hero but no need to lie to alleviate guilt. That people did NOTHING, not even throw coats, belts or bags to divert the dogs attention is really unfortunate. I think we are just too used to rely on external assistance ( also on 9/11)

      November 7, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Donna

    Pittsburgh Gazette has a few more details, but it appears everything was done that could have been....absolutely horrific for everyone condolences to the family.

    November 4, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dmb

    Remind me to never go out and paint my dog!

    November 4, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      Glad you could find the time to find humor in this. A three year old child has violently died and this is where you are? It feels like no one has a soul anymore...this is what the world has come to.

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