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. Britney

    3 year olds should be kept in pushchairs, and taken out only for a short while to see the animals, when its not possible to do so from the pushchair.I had bad experiences myself and had to learn with it with my 3 year old very active boy.We missed him twice, once in the boat and second in the ZOO. 3 year olds are very impulsive, one second you are not looking they are gone . They dont have a sense of time and space like grown ups have, and they suddenly decide to do something and thats it. Needless to say we rented a pushchair anytime we needed to go in parks, zoos etc.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:31 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rob


    November 5, 2012 at 5:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. landedhere

    Liberals don't care about their children.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:35 am | Report abuse |
    • East Coast

      Well, I'm not liberal or conservative, do I care a certain percentage or?.......

      November 5, 2012 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  4. Momof3

    It's amusing that the ones crying over the death of this wild animal don't seem particularly concerned that these endangered dogs from AFRICA are being kept in a cage in PITTSBURGH and breeded so that more and more people can come and observe them in their non-natural habitat.

    As a mom, I can tell you that a three year old can pull away from you in an instant and run into the street or fall down a flight of stairs. I don't condone this woman allowing her son to climb up or lean on a open-top railing, obviously, but parents make mistakes. All the time. What do you think the proper punishment should be for this woman??

    November 5, 2012 at 5:50 am | Report abuse |
  5. ManTex

    It is hard to fix studip. Pick your kid up and let him stand on the railing of a wild African dog enclosure.

    It is tragic for the child. Even more tragic that people who would pick the child up and let it stand by itself on an unprotected railing are allowed to breed.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:58 am | Report abuse |
  6. patw

    The mother should be arrested for murder.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Rusthammer

      For all we know it could have been a bad babysitter.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
    • mountain_bound

      That doesn't make any sense.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:38 am | Report abuse |
  7. Rusthammer

    Am I the only one who wondered why no one just jumped in right away to protect the kid?

    November 5, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
    • mountain_bound

      Probably afraid they would get eaten by a pack of dogs. That is a strong deterrent.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      The article stated that the dogs were exhibiting pack behavior. I would not jump in under that scenario, would you?

      November 5, 2012 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Controversy

    Anyone else think this may be "The perfect crime??"
    Was this child insured? The way the world is today, I gotta wonder. Seems to careless an act, sorry just saying.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joderito

    This is a nightmare. I have a child who CLIMBS on EVERYTHING. He isn't content unless he is scaling a wall or upside down somewhere, and I can't let him out of my sight and hardly trust anyone to watch him.. If he ventures two feet away, he will climb a tree or climb a pole or stop sight. He is 6 and so active (he can control himself at places like church or school). Anyway, I wonder whether this child was like that or whether someone lifted him up to see better .

    What a tragic day, for the child, for the family, and for all the unfortunate visitors who saw it happen.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
    • SimplyT

      Well at 3 years old and the wall being 14ft tall I sincerely doubt he climbed this wall. It was a senseless and careless act on some adults part. And the fact they didn't jump in right afterwards shows their lack of love. I don't have kids just nephews and I would fight and die before I sat around and let them get harmed. Its sad and hopefully there will be an investigation into this.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:48 am | Report abuse |
    • StevenJ

      I assume this was a pit enclosure with the wall rising toward spectator level. So probably just a short railing to climb.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Lem

      Is he a human child or a monkey child? He loves climbing so much I was just wondering. Offer him a banana and see how he reacts.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • curmudgeontx

      Another news organization mentioned that the mother placed the boy on the railing.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Alison

      On the news it said the mother lifted the child up on the rail and he slipped. She was the cause of his little life being lost. Another unfortunate is one of the dogs was killed. Doing what he was born to do. Not his fault.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
    • Blossie

      The observation deck is about 14 feet off the ground. The enclosure fence on the deck is four feet high and grated, no child would be able to climb it. An adult would have difficulty climbing the enclosure deck fence.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:28 am | Report abuse |
  10. Lizard Lance

    Because of the stupidity of this kid's parent or guardian, we have a dead 3-year old and the zoo is closed to presumably much smarter people who would like to come visit and learn something about wildlife. We have far too many idiots among us.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Well said!!!

      November 5, 2012 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      Ok -well when tragedy (of this magnitude -can you even imagine for a second) strikes your world (hope it never does), please don't come to us for any support. Shame on you for being such a selfish, heartless person.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:44 am | Report abuse |
  11. Nina

    This story fails to contain the vital details that the mother stood her child up on the wooden railing of the observation deck. He immediately lost his balance and fell into the enclosure. This is a deeply tragic story compounded by the negligence of the mother. This was a fourteen foot drop into an area that simulates a rocky terrain. They are unsure if the fall or the attack killed the young child. He was motionless once he hit the ground. For those who are criticizing the people for not jumping in, the drop alone would have killed or injured them. It would have been pointless to try.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  12. charlie

    i worked at the pittsburgh zoo for 2 years.. worked in the dog exhibit for most of the ending of last summer. but this storys pretty screwed up. accidents and stuff does happen but People need to think before acting.. u see people parents, kids, u name it doing stupid stuff all the time.. its a shame but i guess it happens.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  13. Eisenhorn

    The mother was a moron, the kid would probably have been an idiot too. The dogs saved us from it breeding.

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

      Wow, Karma won't be kind to you for that statement, of that I'm sure. It's wonderful the anonymity the Internet gives you, isn't it? Sociopath.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:26 am | Report abuse |
  14. Beth

    Staff Members,

    The cause of death has yet to be determined. It actually could have been the 11-14ft fall that killed him. Why aren't you reporting that? To me that would be on the mother, not the dogs.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. navyvette

    Whoever allowed/placed that child on that railing should be thrown in that pit with those dogs after the park closes, come pick up the bones in the morning. A child died, a dog had to be killed, zookeepers and police were put at risk over someone who is too stupid to live.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:00 am | Report abuse |
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