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. EPUnum1

    I'd like to know how a 3 year old could scale a paddock, without being noticed, designed to keep out kids and adults? One thing to say; where are the parents? Where are the parents...

    November 5, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • mdworker

      Isn't it funny how CNN fails to report that the MOTHER put the kid on top of the railing?? Can you say STUPID????

      November 5, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      He didn't scale the enclosure, his mother was holding him on the top rail by his little baby ankles. Such horrific judgement as a parent, to not see the danger in that.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. Bindy

    Where was God?

    November 5, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Helping Tebow

      November 5, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  3. Tim Hunter

    Cowards! Ill go to war in that enclosure to save your child. Weak society that fear their own shadow. Sad.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Stacey

      I completely agree, why on Earth did the parents and all other adult bystanders NOT jump in???

      November 5, 2012 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. di

    Remember when the chimp ripped the face off that woman a few years ago? Tore her eyes out? I love animals. I would enter a burning building to rescue my dog or cats. I hate hunters. They argue that they help to control deer, moose and bear populations and because they eat the meat, it's okay...all lousy excuses...they simply love to kill. Yet all this aside, as much as I love animals, I am also realistic. Would I have killed that chimp? I certainly would have shot it to make it stop. Would I kill a grizzly bear if it were ripping apart a child? Again, I at least would shoot at it to try to make it stop. Would I be sad that I killed an animal? Of course. But I would feel sadder if I stood by and let a pack of dogs kill a child. How could anyone do that and feel he/she had done the right thing. We are all animals and we instinctively protect our young, or at least should.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tim Hunter

    It's ok cowards. I'll go to war with those dogs to save your child. Society that fears it's own shadow is so sad to watch. Soft people disgust me. Condolences and prayers with the parents!

    November 5, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Have at it, Tim.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  6. Reality Check

    The idiot parent is at fault, not the zoo or the wild animals.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:34 am | Report abuse |
    • DaMeglet

      Thank you. That was the first smart thing I've read in this thread. Where the hell were the parents and why were they not watching their child?

      November 5, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
  7. Craig

    This headline should read "Boy killed by idiot parent who was not watching child around predatory animals." The animals behaved like animals and the observation deck was there to keep humans at a distance. Apparently the parent felt that it was the zoo's responsibility to put a force field around the child. Nature has a funny way of thinning the herd. Other countries get this. In Europe, if you swim in the ocean and go out too far beyond your ability to get back, no lifeguard is saving your stupid behind.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • SandraDee


      November 5, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • Pig Benis

      I agree

      November 5, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim Mercuri

      Trying sitting with the grief for a moment instead of blaming, painful that a child is lost in such a violent manner. Easily could have been any of us . . .

      November 5, 2012 at 8:58 am | Report abuse |
  8. LMOM

    Totally the parents fault here, can't blame the animals!!!! It was an accident of course but the solution is not killing animals.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim

      These same animals escaped last year, requiring the zoo to be evacuated. Check that story out, I think it shows a pattern or at least a precedent that there was a problem with this exhibit. Extremely tragic for everyone involved.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • TLLM

      Still not the animals Fault Jim, HUMANS are to Blame!! Horrible situation but a parent should THINK first!!!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  9. georgiegirl10

    I know that some of you think you are perfect, and have never made a mistake in your life. It's, therefore, perfectly logical that you have no empathy for this mother. She has to live with her mistake for the rest of her life, she has no do over for this tragedy.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
    • PushingBack

      No, it's not that at all. It's just a shame that these dogs are better parents to their young than some people are.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Rose

      It is unclear how anyone could not say this is the mother's fault. Society needs to wake up and hold people accountable for their actions (stupid or smart). There is no doubt that her actions put her child at risk and ultimately death (10+ foot fall into a cage of wild dogs? how can anyone argue otherwise)?. This is not a 'mistake'.

      It is the reckless and clueless actions of people that will cause the zoo to come up with more idiot-proof measure in the name of "safety" (and has already caused a dog killed for doing what comes natural to him).

      November 5, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • TLLM

      That poses a very good question then as to why she didn't jump in after her child. If I was as careless as that and my child did fall into a dangerous place I would of been the first one leaping over the fence to go in after them!!! Hello that is your first instinct as a parent to save your child!!

      November 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Stacey

    I fully understand that these were dangerous wild dogs, but...can anyone explain why the parents and all of the other adult bystanders did not jump in to help this child???

    November 5, 2012 at 8:43 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Stacey: You speak as if jumping into a pit of wild dogs in a feeding frenzy was a no brainer (as in being obvious), as opposed to a no brainer, as in being stupid

      November 5, 2012 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • SandraDee

      Maybe you're not a father, Sam Stone? Because jumping in to save your own child from danger is a no-brainer to virtually every parent. Every parent except the mother in the article.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
    • DaMeglet

      No one would have had to jump into said pit with said child if they were watching the child to begin with! They sell leads and harnesses for children. If you can't be bothered to LOOK at your own child to see what they are doing, isn't it worth $30 to make sure you won't be burying them later?

      November 5, 2012 at 8:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. jenny

    no railings on the deck? seems odd....anyone ever fall before?

    November 5, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Trish

      there are railings, she sat her kid on top of them

      November 5, 2012 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      There is a four foot tall railing, but also a glass enclosed viewing area. Many of the enclosures have areas like this at the Pgh zoo. The lion exhibit is another. It is very scary. I always make my kids stay well back from the rails, as a fall would kill them, even if the animals didn't. Also, the bear exhibit has just a waist high fence. You can also (if you were an idiot) stick your hand into the piranha tank.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Jim M

      I have been there on several visits with my kids and I intentionally did not take my 2 year old onto the observation deck because it did not feel safe to me.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:04 am | Report abuse |
  12. Trish

    This story is a lose-lose situation all around. A tragic accident! But have you ever been to the pittsburg Zoo? I have and you really have to try to fall down there. Let's face it the mother was not thinking very well for practically dangling her child above wild animals. While I feel sickened by thinking about a little boy being mauled by these animals . . . let's face it these are not domestic animals, they were only doing what wild animals do. So we want to kill them for behaving in their natural way.
    Everybody is going to play the blame game now and speak out of sheer emotion instead of common sense.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Trish

      I don't blame them at all for killing the dog that they could not get off the boy, but I just hope no more get killed just because.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Marika

    Perfect way to murder a child, make it look accidental as in this case.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:45 am | Report abuse |
  14. Vet-Tech

    Such a horrible and PREVENTABLE accident! What was the Mother thinking!?!?! I am not going to attack her on this page because we all know, she will have to live with this for the rest of her life! I am an avid animal lover but also a Mother and I cannot even begin to imagine how absolutely horrific this must have been. If this were my child, God forbid I would never put him up on a ledge like that but if animals were involved, I would make sure and want everything possible be done to try to save him. This is no win situation, a young child lost his life due to an irresponsible parent and an endangered species lost it's life for doing what comes naturally:(

    November 5, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
  15. GEB

    No one is really to blame here. It was a horribly tragic accident. I see parents holding their kids up to see the animals better every single time I go to the zoo. This mothers life is ruined already, no need to insult her further.

    November 5, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
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