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. Ann

    It's the mother's fault. She should have been watching her child. There is no excuse not to have her eyes on her child at all times! But since we are a society that doesn't own up to responsibilities, they'll blame the zoo and the wild animals.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:06 am | Report abuse |
    • parents worst nightmare

      she has owned up do you know the family then don't speak for them

      November 5, 2012 at 2:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      The mother can only make that mistake once.

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

    A three year old boy? what's a mother doing in a zoo of African painted wild dogs with her young child? why can't she go to museum? or sports arena? So she let her own interest override her child's life. Accidents? yes accident occurred but you cannot compare accidents in the zoo with that of museum or sports arena? This is homicide; a first degree murder in my opinion.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. Minerva

    Since eyewitnesses are tweeting they saw the mother holding the child over the fence to get a better look I do not understand how people are still referring to this as an "accident." It is not an accident but rather a very bad act of judgement on the mother's part. The child fell from her grasp somehow. That's what can happen when you hold a child up over a fence.

    From the animals' perspective as horrible as it may sound, they may have been perciveing her actions as a tease. How many of us have held something; a toy or a morsel of food over our dog's or cat's head with the intention of teasing them? Okay, this may sound gruesome to us but to a wild animal this is something that can cause them go into a frenzy. I am sorry but they don't see a precious little human child; they see food. Or at the very least a threat that comes hurtling at them that could possible do them harm. They are animals. That is how they process things. Food or threat.

    If that sounds cold or terrible to you well, you have to remember, we are talking about a very wild animal here not a sweet cuddly little domesticated puppy. There is a reason for those fences and signs that say keep behind them.
    Why are people blaming the mother for the death of her child? Because she ignored the signs and fences. She ignored the warnings. I am very sorry but it is she who is supposed to be the rational being. She can reason, she can read. The wild dogs cannot. It is she who is to blame and as long as people will be foolish and make excuses for actions like hers, these things will continue to happen.

    I am sorry for her little boy. I am sorry for her loss. She will have to live with it all her life. But people must learn that there are dangers in nature and to heed warnings when they are clearly posted for their safety. The zoo did everything they would normally do to protect the public I'm sure. I am also sure they didn't count on someone so foolish as to endanger their child by dangling him over a pit of wild dogs.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:22 am | Report abuse |
  4. Bendiesel

    I feel for the unnecessary loss of life and the guilt the mother is feeling. There's no doubt in my mind it's her fault. Who in their right mind would hold their 2 year old over a pack of wild dogs much less the possibility of dropping him/her 14 feet?! For you people that support the mother.. Are you saying you would do the same thing with your 2 year old? Because you're pretty much saying its okay to do so... and if the child slips our of your grip.. it's an ACCIDENT?? NO.. that's child endangerment and I hope she gets charged with it, before a greedy lawyer twists this into a lawsuit against the ZOO..

    November 5, 2012 at 2:33 am | Report abuse |
    • flat

      where does it say she held her child over the pit?

      November 5, 2012 at 3:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Richard

      It did indeed say on the local evening news that she held the kid up into the exhibit and the child slipped from her grasp. I agree.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:44 am | Report abuse |
  5. Craig

    It's very sad that everytime a human behave stupidly in a case like this a poor animal has to die.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:54 am | Report abuse |
  6. SickofHumanity

    Everyone here crying about the death of the animal sickens me, I look forward to the day our species is wiped from existence.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      The animal didn't have to be killed if the mother wasn't a complete dolt. Why would someone called SickofHumanity be worried about a human dying as opposed to the animal?

      November 5, 2012 at 4:14 am | Report abuse |
  7. Knopf

    Why didn't the staff or police immediately shoot the dogs?

    November 5, 2012 at 3:10 am | Report abuse |
    • GetOverIt

      They didn't shoot the dogs because a) it wasn't their fault they were acting like what they are and b) there are fewer than 5,000 of them left in the world and 8 BILLION humans.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Frank

      People like you are as incompetent and stupid as those shouting for justice for trayvon martin. You only look at the end result of things, completely blind and oblivious to the sequence of events that led to that result.

      You are in the majority - yet another stupid and useless citizen of society. Please, just eliminate yourself from the gene pool. You will never be able to think critically or do anything useful.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:17 am | Report abuse |
    • scott

      besides, I am sure the child was long gone before anyone with a gun arrived.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
    • clemente

      Scott is correct. The keepers do not carry guns.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Vigil

    Lots of visitors ignore the signs posted on the observation decks and stand their young children upon the guardrails so they can better view of the animals, not thinking they could lose their grip and drop their kids. The mesh barriers may give a false sense of security if parents think they're meant to catch toddlers (they're meant to catch smaller objects such as binoculars and cameras.) Unfortunately, stupidity is common among zoo visitors. Maybe the they should just hire some little orange men with green hair to sing morality songs about not feeding the animals, not teasing the animals, and not standing your children on the rails to see the animals.

    November 5, 2012 at 3:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Mel

      Little orange people! Snooki and The Jersey Shore oompa lumpas!

      November 5, 2012 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mother of Five Year Old

    I would have been over the rail in a second and chewed the ears off any animal that touched my child, be me responsible for allowing my child to fall or not! And if I lost my child to the battle, I would exterminate any and all animals that hurt my child! I'm an animal too! That poor child did not have the advantage of instinctual parents, evidently. Watch families in the wild; the parents fight and protect to the end! What a ZOO?!

    November 5, 2012 at 4:05 am | Report abuse |
    • PC

      Don't blame the zoo, and don't blame the dogs. Blame the mother for standing her kid on the railing to look at them. It's not the zoo's fault that parents are stupid!

      November 5, 2012 at 4:53 am | Report abuse |
    • clemente

      You would have been eaten.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:18 am | Report abuse |
  10. CraigTheSecond

    That the dog was shot was unfortunate, but it was necessary. The zoo did what they could to save the child and the endangered dogs,but since we are humans, of course we hold human life to be more valuable than other life. The parent, sadly, is to blame, and she will being paying for it in grief for the rest of her life.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:08 am | Report abuse |
    • bellenoitr

      Shooting a wild animal accomplishes nothing. The animal doesn't think he did anything 'wrong.'. He's simply doing what he's programmed to do in the wild. The person who was supervising this child was not doing their job. If you want to put blame where it belongs, you'd shoot the person who was [not] taking care of the child properly.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:45 am | Report abuse |
  11. bazza

    sad, nice animal has to die some human was in the wrong place...

    November 5, 2012 at 4:10 am | Report abuse |
  12. Chris

    The dog should not have been shot. Im sure the child was probably dead very quickly being mauled by a pack of dogs. This is another case of why Zoos are just wrong in concept. Putting stupid people next to enclosures of rare and dangerous species of animals has and will continue to have these types of outcomes. Polar Bears, Lions, Elephants, have all seriously injured or killed zoo goers in the last 12 months.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:24 am | Report abuse |
  13. whydoesit

    Horrible way to die for both the child and the dog, one being chewed alive and dead from the desecration and decapitation and other being killed without chance to defend for being what they are-predators, even lions wont attack a pack of dogs
    what i can’t understand is, why mother or father did not jump in to rescue – may be they could have jumped in and then climbed the fence to get out
    , why it took so much time for rescuers to get in

    November 5, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  14. Raf

    People fault the mother, fine. But that part of the story is over the moment the child fell in. After that it sounds like the zoo was more interested in saving the dogs then the child. It sounds like the police were convinced to try to save the dogs as well. Just shoot all the dogs not the aggressive one. I love animals but you sacrifice them immediately to save a human.
    If this was your child even the most animal loving, animal rights supporting parent would say 'kil the dogs'. come on people be real.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Kanien

      A three year old that falls 14 feet into a cage of predators probably does not live for long, even if he did survive the fall...He was probably dead within seconds...I doubt that much time passed between the incident and the arrival of the staff...Chances are the dog was shot just so that they could recover the body. Horrible situation, but you cannot fault the staff....caution signs, fences, etc....all put up to try to keep stupid people from thinking they are the exception to the rule...

      November 5, 2012 at 6:02 am | Report abuse |
  15. Abbey

    To everyone saying to put ourselves in the mother's shoes... just stop. "if it were your child in there..." etc etc.

    MY child wouldn't be in there. Because I'M not a moron that hangs a child over a safety rail. I don't let my kid out of my sight either. ESPECIALLY in a place like that. Her stupidity was well punished. I DO feel bad for that poor child that to die because his mother was stupid.

    That dog didn't have to die. It's like sticking your hand in a shark's mouth and expecting not to get bitten. They may be in captivity, but they are no more domestic than they are in the wild.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:15 am | Report abuse |
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