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. Branimir

    This was a murder.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:37 am | Report abuse |
  2. Dave

    There are 5k of those dogs but only one son who mattered to his mother. Personally, I would have shot all the dogs to save that one boy. People do dumb things and make mistakes. The zoo should have foreseen this and placed better barriers there.

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

      Dave: How long do you think it was before the child was dead?

      November 5, 2012 at 9:55 am | Report abuse |
    • JSFP98

      You cannot protect for every possiblility. I've been to the zoo in Pittsburgh with my kids and the barriers are adaquate. Simple fact is the mother made a terrible mistake placing her child at the top of the guardrail and not holding on.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  3. Kathylh

    The family needs support not condemnation. Yes, the mom screwed up, she is more aware of that than most anyone else. A few seconds worth of bad judgement and carelessness has altered lives forever. She and her family will live with memory of this hellish event for the rest of their lives. I hope they don't waste time and effort by bringing suit against the zoo. The time and effort would best be spent by getting professional help in dealing with this tragedy. No one could ever punish the mother more than she is punishing herself. As a mother, I can only imagine how she must feel and how she must wish that she could go back and change what happened. Unfortunately, no can change the events, only learn from this and figure out how to survive the aftermath

    November 5, 2012 at 9:43 am | Report abuse |
  4. PittBry

    A few of the Pittsburgh websites are stating the mother had the child standing on the railing.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Gail

      As far back as I can remember, there are always signs at zoos and amusement parks to stay off of railings. This is a tragic example of someone not obeying the warnings posted at various venues. Zoos should not have to build 10 foot or higher enclosures to prevent stupidity on the part of some parents. The mother has to live with her decision and while I feel badly for her, there is a reason warnings are posted for our safety.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:09 am | Report abuse |
  5. mc

    I would like to think that I would have jumped in to help, but if a pack of dogs is tearing a child to pieces, jumping in may have just left two dead. Just plain horrible. The mother should have been smarter and the zoo should have a safety net or moat.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • SandraDee

      The zoo had a railing and a safety net. The mother put her child up onto the railing that was meant as a barrier. Then the unthinkable happened and she somehow let him go.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:02 am | Report abuse |
    • Jason Bourne

      There is NO safety net at that exhibit. Just a railing.. and it is just a rumour that she had the child up on the railing.

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

      The dogs are close to the food court and I am sure there were many people around. One person would have a hard time fending off the dogs, but if few jumped in, dogs would be afraid, some chairs from food court could be used as weapons. I am surprised no one jumped in to help, I would.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  6. CaptO

    PA is a concealed carry state. I am surprised no one there was carrying. Had I been there, at least I could have killed all of the dogs to give the child a chance. No animal is worth a child's life.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Baalzabarber

      Yeah Right Tex!. You would have shot yourself in the leg or another innocent tourist.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
    • no

      CaptO is big hero in mind of CaptO!! Everyone say how great he is!!! .... OK, not.... so the reality is, in the confusion and all the dogs running around in a frenzy, you would have shot the boy on accident as well. FAIL.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Keel Hauler

      At least CaptO would have tried to save the kid, while you unarmed guys stand there gaping. How the hell do you know that he would shoot poorly? The noise from the gunshots alone might have scared the dogs off. The concealed carry people I know, including myself, shoot better than the average police officer who only practices when he HAS to. You anti-gun clowns think all us gun carriers are just out-of-control cowboys who would shoot anything that moves. Nothing could be further from the truth. Think before you post your dribbling slobber about people you know nothing about.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      Wow, what a macho, macho man.....

      November 5, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      "You anti-gun clowns think all us gun carriers are just out-of-control cowboys who would shoot anything that moves."

      "Think before you post your dribbling slobber about people you know nothing about."

      The irony of those two statements is amusing

      November 5, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
    • j0dy09

      I am in no favor of gun use but in this case I completely agree with you no dog ever is more important than that of a child. I honestly would request that they'd be put down if i was the familly . I can't imagine what kind of unsafe place it must have been for this to happen . all the zoos I've been in don't even let people remotely close to what could be dangerous. even if the mother wasn't watching the zoo should have been prepared to act instantly and maybe this wouldn't have happened and I'm not satying the mother was completely innocent, but even the most cautious person in the world could have an accident I am sure all those perfect parents can't be tied up around their children 24/7 to prevent the wind from touching their kids . it was a horrible accident that could have been prevented had the zoo been prepared for it and I would not blame the family of that poor child to sue the place I know I would

      November 5, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. Jason

    Sadly, I garantee that the mother tries to sue the Zoo for this...

    November 5, 2012 at 9:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I bet you are right

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

      Jason I am sure she will & her & some lawyer taken the case will too! Sad that could have been her motive for putting the child above the safety nets, no loving mother would put a child in a dangerous situation to begin with!

      November 5, 2012 at 10:13 am | Report abuse |
  8. parents worst nightmare

    reading these posts sadden me yes the mother was stupid for putting her child on the railing but what is your excuse for being so cruel with your words NO ANIMAL IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A CHILDS LIFE .....She made a mistake she will have to live with the rest of her life if she can go on living. Things are being posted that are not true I know this family And for those of you that say this could not happen to you...PLEASE!!! Maybe not this but read the news tragic happens every day by stupidity. If we killed everyone for stupidity most of you would be gone by now GOD FORGIVE YOU

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

      I think you misunderstood: by saying "NO ANIMAL IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN A CHILD'S LIFE ...." the writer meant that the child's life was more important than an animal's life, so I don't see what's so cruel about that comment, unless you meant it was a cruel comment to the animals...

      November 5, 2012 at 10:04 am | Report abuse |
    • pmn

      I feel bad for the mother of this child. Im glad they shot the animal..it should have been shot. I do not think the animals should have been in such close range of just below the observation deck.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • parents worst nightmare

      reread what I wrote ....I was not commenting to anyone person I was commenting to anyone defending the dog over the child mean to all the cruel words said by mant and words that are unnecessary

      November 5, 2012 at 10:20 am | Report abuse |
  9. Rev. Christie Bliss. Ley

    Having seen how these dogs act as a pack, I'm afraid the child would have been dead before any action could have been taken. They go into a frenzy, and kill very quickly.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  10. Aja

    I think we can all agree that this mother will pay severely for the rest of her life for her lapse in judgement. I feel for her I'm sure she's devastated and would take it back in a heartbeat. Certainly she had no intention of this happening. There are some heartless people on here.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:50 am | Report abuse |
  11. 2/8

    "Unfortunately" they were in pack mentality? What did they expect?

    November 5, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
  12. A Father

    I would be in there and the Dogs would be dead... No chance they would hurt my child. I may not make it but I am taking every dog with me... I am bigger, smarter and stronger than dogs. You put my child into the situations, nothing will come between me and my child. I dont care what animal it is. End of Story...

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

      You would be a dead father and no, you are not smarter than a dog when it comes to events like these.

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

      And I suppose if he'd fallen in with a few polar bears you'd likewise be the mighty victor? Get over yourself; no one is impressed with your obvious lack of knowledge of these highly skilled predators. Do you think the large prey they routinely bring down in the wild doesn't put up a good fight?

      November 5, 2012 at 10:33 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      They would have torn you apart, tarzan

      November 5, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  13. User42

    The fall may have killed the child before the dogs got to it anyway.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:56 am | Report abuse |
    • Nicole

      So it's okay for those animals to rip apart that child and for innocent bystanders AND the mother to witness it EVEN if the child had already passed? Give me a break – that's a horrible horrible way of looking at the beauty of life.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
  14. Concerned grandma

    I don't remember just how many times I stopped the children from doing the things they should not at the zoo. I don't remember just how many times I spotted wandering toddlers at the shopping malls and large department stores stopped them until I found the parent. In one case, the parents were 20 feet away from the toddler and they didn't even know the child was wandering away from them! BE ALERT please! Tragic happens in seconds.

    November 5, 2012 at 9:57 am | Report abuse |
  15. ENcE1

    I think a human male could take or a few dogs. Once you get around there neck, they can't bite because they can't reach. I'd kill a few dogs to save a baby that just started it's life. People get adrenaline and lift cars, how hard would it be to snap a few dogs necks?

    November 5, 2012 at 10:00 am | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Really, 11 dogs, you're a moron for sure. Hey, I'd pay to see that one.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • churflap

      Gee, why didn't it ever occur to the countless large animals these dogs kill in the wild, who usually have hooves and horns and are often much larger than the dogs themselves, to try to FIGHT or KILL their attackers? I'm sure a pack of these dogs is in NO way equipped to handle the fierce resistance of dangerous prey. That's using your noodle.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:37 am | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      ENcE1: Go ahead and do it. Make sure that video is running, so we can see your last day

      November 5, 2012 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
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