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. Susan

    Disney World built a hotel a few years back with an observation lounge on the 16th floor. The outside terrace had a flat-topped wall about 3-4 feet high. They recently made the wall about 1 foot higher with a steep slant back toward the terrace because parents were putting their kids ON TOP of the flat wall for a better view of fireworks. That's a 16-storey sheer drop! I feel terrible for the child in Pittsburgh, but really, people! Safety rails are there for a reason!

    November 5, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      Frankly, an animal parent would take more care of its babies.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
  2. roland

    Alot of heroes here but many would not jump in to help the boy my child or not 18 feet is nothing to save the child just one would made a difference two or three would have saved the child at least i would have know i died trying..... all the heroes

    November 5, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jes

    I feel for this family, this is a tragedy, but this is not the animals' or the zoo's fault. What the national media is neglecting to mention that the Pittsburgh media is covering, is that mom STOOD her 2 year old up on the TOP of a four foot railing above the 14 foot drop into the enclosure!! Sorry, but a 2 year old's balance isn't the most reliable thing in the word as it is, and then to affirmatively put her child into a dangerous situation? No one should be surprised that the child fell, or that the animals reacted in their natural way. This parent should be charged the same as any other who endangers the life of their children with reckless and dangerous behavior.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Mom

      And the railing is slanted, not flat. Even more dangerous!

      November 5, 2012 at 9:14 am | Report abuse |
  4. Reason

    These dogs were bred in captivity so they owe their lives to humans. So the already screwy logic of not killing the dogs is also false.

    And yes the mother is too blame, hundreds of thousands of people have visited the exhibit without incident. I feel terrible for her and can't imagine her grief, but she is absolutely to blame.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. 3yrOldHumanChild

    14ft drop? And no one had the courage to go help? This world we live in ...
    All you activists that are crying in disgust over a dog being shot in a effort to save a child's life,
    if any of you have kids (please I hope not), step back a little and think for a second what was at stake here at the zoo,
    at this particular incident..... A 3yr old CHILD died.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Good thinking, go right ahead and jump into pit of wild dogs. Let us know how that works out for you

      November 5, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I would have picked up the mother and thrown her in to help. The mother may have killed the kid herself. She is the one that put the toddler up on the railing and let go of him. The kid may have very well died from the fall. She should be forced to do community service at the zoo helping clean the cages of these african painted dogs and feeding them.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Independent

      Chicago Tribune reports the following reason for the child's death:

      Lt. Kevin Kraus of the Pittsburgh police said the attack happened at about 11:45 a.m. Sunday after the mother picked the child up and put him on top of a railing at the edge of a viewing deck. "Almost immediately after that he lost his balance, fell down off the railing into the pit, and he was immediately attacked by 11 dogs," Kraus said. "It was very horrific."

      It appears that parental common sense was severely lacking here and a prime cause of the child's death.......

      November 5, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Sad but I have more sympathy for the animals than I do people in this case. Why didn't the stupid mother jump in then? Sorry this is natural selection and darwinism at its best. The mother should be sterilized to avoid future incidents

      November 5, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
    • sGoddy

      You are all a bunch of inconsiderate fools. Sure, an endangered animal was killed. That is sad. But I can bet none of you would let the animal kill you to save it.

      And yes, the mother should have been more careful, but 3 year olds can climb..I don't recall the article stating that the mother placed him on the ledge. Instead of bombarding the comment section with PETA comments, how about you show some compassion for the loss of a 3 year old little boy?

      November 5, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • 3yrOldHumanChild

      Yes I as a father, I would jump in even if there were 100 dogs in there. Even if the chances of survival was 1%, I'm giving it to my child, that chance.
      Im sorry if you did not feel that strong bond between you and your parents while growing up. Maternal instinct isn't something parents are gifted with, it's something that is learned while bonding with a child especially for the first years that child has come into the world.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:34 am | Report abuse |
    • MStephan

      14 ft to save your child – i would have lept it. Why didn't anyone?

      November 5, 2012 at 9:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Nikki

      This breaks my heart. A child died because of his mothers stupidity!!! I have a child and I would jump in knowing that it was my fault for putting my child in danger. Not only did a child die. An animal died as well. All because of one womans stupid idea. So if anyone should be attaking anyone on should be shaking your head in astonishment that a mother would endanger her child in such a way.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      MS and 3yrOld: What if it weren't your child? Would you have jumped into a pit of african painted dogs?

      November 5, 2012 at 9:49 am | Report abuse |
    • tacc2

      Yeah, you go jump into a pit filled with 11 angry attacking dogs and try to "help". The rescuers would be pulling your mauled body out as well.

      It sucks a child died, but this was entirely the parent's fault. This poor kid didn't just fall "off an observation deck that's about 14 feet above the exhibit". They don't mention it in this article, but other sources I've read said the parent's had sat the kid ON THE FREAKING RAILING!

      November 5, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
    • 3yrOldHumanChild

      @sam stone
      don't tell my wife this, but yes I would. I have very strong instincts when it comes to defending the helpless. In this case a 3yrd old child being attacked would snap something inside me.
      True I might end up being mauled to death in the process but not before trying my very best to save the kid.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      "I have very strong instincts when it comes to defending the helpless. In this case a 3yrd old child being attacked would snap something inside me."

      And it would propel you to your death. Would your wife have an easier time knowing that you were killed trying to save an already dead 3 year old?

      November 5, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  6. CullThePopulace

    Natural Selection.
    This time, nature wins.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. Nick

    Shame. A very stupid decision on the part of the mother. She does take the blame. Whether she's grieving or not, she is still at fault. She should have used her head and not put the kid up on that ledge. We'd not be having this discussion right now.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
  8. Casey

    Once again a member of a highly endangered species is killed to save one human that was already gone anyways. Shame on the parents for not watching their child.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:21 am | Report abuse |
    • .......

      Shame on YOU, for saying that. Have your child devoured and see how you feel. I'd of shot everyone of those dogs to save a child.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
    • AmericanProud

      Shame on you for thinking of animal before a child. The mother is at fault for her lack of responsibility, but that child didnt deserve to die. Imagine the horror that child felt in its last minutes before you open your mouth again moron.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      ****** and American Proud: How long do you think it was before the child was killed? Spare us all that machismo

      November 5, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      That last comment should not have been directed at AmericanProud

      November 5, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  9. Joel

    Michelle Obama = African Painted Dog

    November 5, 2012 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
    • neal kelley

      Joel = Racist PIG

      November 5, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Apple

      I agree!

      November 5, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Pat

      Whats the point with your comment ?

      November 5, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Retired Army

      Wow joel ('j' in small case on purpose) that is surely the weakest post in this thread.

      I would say that your momma would be ashamed of you for that post.....but she probably raised you to be specifically the type of troglodyte that you are.....

      November 5, 2012 at 9:51 am | Report abuse |
    • hk

      You are the lowest!

      November 5, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
  10. Josh

    I have to wonder if the mother simply said "do you want to pet the nice puppies?", and put the kid into the exhibit,

    November 5, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
  11. lindaluttrell

    How high was the barrier above that a 3-year-old could get over it? I would think an adult held him up or sat him on top of the barrier and lost balance. That poor child.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      The mother did put the child up on the ledge and let go of him. The ledge was put there by the zoo to prevent exactly what happen. Now she'll have to live with the haunts of her child screaming as the dogs tore him apart.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  12. Damian

    The big question here is who was watching this child and how did they fall in the 1st place? They should have never been in a position to fall into the exhibit period!

    November 5, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Katerin

    My heart goes out to the child's family. What a nightmare!

    November 5, 2012 at 9:31 am | Report abuse |
  14. Nance

    Where the hell were the parents? Mom??? I don't place any blame whatsoever on the dogs...shame on you Mom.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
    • NaturallySelected

      The mom was right there!! She set the child on the railing! At the very least it is criminal negligence. I don't care how many fences are between you and a literal pack of wild dogs but putting your child on the railing (with warning signs in multiple languages) is the very definition stupid. I don't care how many fences there were, the mother is 100% responsible and I hope the screams of that child remind her of that until she dies.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:59 am | Report abuse |
  15. karen

    Crazy moms wanting to kill their children are taking note. No jail time if you toss the kid into a pack of wild dogs.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:35 am | Report abuse |
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