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. bs1

    Forget these 'endangered" African dogs in the zoo, how about the near daily occurances of children and others being attacked and often killed by domestic dogs in the US? Search the national news outlets and you'll find report after report of such attacks. Can we all wake up and ban these dangerous animals before yet another human is killed?

    November 5, 2012 at 10:52 am | Report abuse |
  2. Emart

    Where the hell were the parents...When I go to the zoo with my children I make sure the're next to me all the time. If the parents were to have that child next to them, this wouldn't have happened. So, don't blame the animals, or anyone else. I'm deeply sorry for the death of that child, but I see a lot of parents neglecting their children when I go to public places like the zoo, the mall, stores, supermarkets etc.

    November 5, 2012 at 10:53 am | Report abuse |
    • parents worst nightmare


      November 5, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Nicole

    Blame blame blame. How about we STOP blaming and look at the REAL situation here. Pray for this victim, pray for the family. A life has been lost people! Yes, it was a horrible decision for the mother THAT SHE'LL HAVE TO LIVE WITH FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE. Yes it's sad the almost extinct animal had to be shot. Who can really judge in this situation unless we had ALL been there to witness it? All I know is that – Life is a beautiful thing we must ALL cherish it. ANYTHING can happen to destroy it. Live each day knowing that it can be taken away from you in an instant. Let's learn from this incident and grow from it. It's all we really can do...

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

      The mother is responsible for the death and needs to be punished for the death of the boy and the dog. There was a case of mothers being arrested just because they had their kids crossing the road without intersection and a speeding car killed the kid while injuring the mother. And then there are so many other cases where the child dies due to irresponsibility of the mother, drowning in water or fire accident, etc, where the mothers are held responsible for the death and chastised by public and the courts. How about here when she was responsible not just for the boy, but for the life of an innocent endangered animal? Double murder...

      November 5, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      Oh, no. I will blame the mother all I want. She is entirely at fault for the child's death. She wouldn't dangle herself over a pit of animals. Why is a helpless three year old any different? The child's life wasn't ripped away due to something unavoidable, like being rear ended at a red light or cancer. That poor child was torn apart because of the mother's sheer stupidity and willful ignorance. She deserves to go to jail for putting her child in that situation.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
  4. bob

    A three year old child does not simply climb over a four foot tall fence. My sympathy goes to the father and the rest of the family, as well as the zoo. The mother is entirely to blame for dangling her child over a pack of dangerous animals. She should go to jail for this senseless death. What idiot holds a child ON a rail FOURTEEN feet above DANGEROUS animals?

    November 5, 2012 at 10:57 am | Report abuse |
  5. deadkid

    Wrong headline. Careless parents killed their boy in the zoo, and also caused the death of an endangered animal.

    The parents or guardians for the boy should be held responsible for the death of 2 animals – 1. the boy and 2. the dog.

    November 5, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • june

      Exactly. Headline is wrong. Should read....'Careless mother causes death of son and endangered animal.' The dogs did not drag him into the enclosure...she stupidly put her child in a position to fall in and he did. The dogs are not at fault, she is. I can understand why the last dog was shot but it is still tragic anyway you look at it. The article in the Pittsburg Gazette says that zoo officials are trying to figure out if that dog has previously shown aggressive is a wild animal!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  6. Deb

    Please take your meds and calm down. No one has devalued this child's life, but it was his mother who put him in harms way. The dogs were reacting the way nature programmed them to of the jungle. The observation deck is 14 feet above them for a reason. It is a sad situation, but ultimately, the mother is to blame; when are people going to start taking responsibility for their own actions and stop blaming everyone/everything else?? This 'it wasn't my fault' mentality is what is bringing this country to it's knees. SMH

    November 5, 2012 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Melanie

      I agree with you 100%. If the mother lifted the child onto the railing, then it is her fault. Do I fee horrible for her – yes, I do! That does not excuse the sheer stupidity for putting the boy up there.

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

      No one here is putting any life before another. It's very simple. The child's mother is to blame here. Key words here "wild dogs" and a "14 foot deep enclosure." She should never have lifted this child above the wall......

      November 5, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
    • ksheets

      Very well said

      November 5, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      @Deb. I totally agree with you. Everyone wants to point fingers at the zoo or say that the dogs should be put down. That would be just like saying that a train should be destroyed completely since a child was playing on the tracks as it approached him. There's a reason there's a 14 foot observation deck, there's also a reason why there are car seats, etc.
      When you're a parent, you need to keep a close watch on your child 24/7. It isn't until kids are about 10 years old that you can start being a little more lenient, but you still need to watch them almost 24/7 then.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
    • Iceman

      Well said I agree with you its not the zoo's fault or the animals its the effect of not being aware of what you are doing. I am sorry that the child was killed no child should have been, but you have to remember if you are going to be around animals even in a zoo you have to remember that the animal is just that a animal they will not behave like a domesticated house cat or dog so quit thinking that.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  7. Garry

    Horror for the little child, Anger for the Animals, Anger for the Mother, Anger for killing of the endangered animal, Anger for the low saftey fence in place by the Zoo... this is really sad... one thing is for sure and I put it that we would all agree we wish it could be undone, however it will not, therefore see it for what it is, respect the event in peace and learn deeply from it, two wrongs don't make a right, that is what my mum used to say, I expect this mother has and will well learn her tragic lesson and that punishment is only just beginning and will always remain with her so why punish her more? for revenge? instead do make better fences and do always be awake and mindful and responsible for the sake of our young children.

    November 5, 2012 at 10:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Canadian Hobo

      MAYBE the mother should have been looking after her child.....The poor little thing.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Guest

      The mother was holding her child as he was standing on the top railing. There rally isn't anyone to blame but her for not being cautious. The fence is four foot high and 14' above the ground. You don't balance a small child on the top railing EVER, not to mention when this railing is the only thing guarding you from wild dogs. There are signs EVERYWHERE telling you not to stand or climb the railing. They are there for a reason and people should abide them. My only question is why she didn't jump in too? It's your duty as a mother to protect your child, esp after you let him fall 14' feel into a zoo exhibit. Get in there and try your best to protect him. Period.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. ladylillie62

    Sort of like you?

    November 5, 2012 at 11:01 am | Report abuse |
  9. BInks

    First off we cant get mad at the dogs for attacking the child. As bad as it sounds but they are wild animals they don't know any better but to see an unusual being and think its food. Like someone said its not like the mother threw her kid in the pit but she should of been more caution. It is the Zoo's responsibility to maintain safety all around but also a mother job to keep her child safe and be smart about certain decisions. NO ONE is directly at fault but there are room for error for both sides. The incident is a bad accidient now the mother and i guess the zoo keeper learns what needs to be done to PREVENT this happening again.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  10. guest

    this reminded me of two dumb teenagers 3 or 4 years ago provoked a tiger in a zoo and got killed. And the tiger got the blame. I think they killed it.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
    • churflap

      Yeah, a cop shot it I do believe. Just like that nutjob who let loose a bunch of tigers, lions, wolves etc. in Ohio a few years back and the cops shot all those too. Does anyone get the feeling that maybe at least some cops are just giddy at the chance to "hunt" an endangered or exotic animal and get away with it? I know civilians who certainly would be.

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

      Yes, remember that one. A rare Siberian tiger named Tatiana in the San Francisco Zoo. Was taunted by three visitors, managed to escape her enclosure and killed one of her taunters. I do not think there was anyway the death could have been prevented after the toddler fell into the exhibit. It just happened too fast for anybody to react.

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

    What was the mother thinking, or was she thinking? Like many humans, these dogs are meat eaters, there only purpose is to eat and make baby African Painted Dogs, and that's all. Humans, however, have the ability to reason. According to scientists, thousands of years ago, their is evidence that humans consumed their pet dogs, farm animals, and ...YES...their children, and each other, in order to survive. An autopsy should show if he was killed due to the impact of the fall.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:06 am | Report abuse |
    • guest

      Actually, these dogs have very intricate, social lives beyond just eating and making babies. They are families and are very valuable to the health of their native land.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  12. 30307

    Not one of those dogs should have been killed!!! They were only reacting naturally, and they are endangered. The unintentional but negligent behavior of the parents and possibly child created this very unfortunate situation!!!

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

      Yes! I agree 100%

      November 5, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  13. Amy

    Some stories should not allow comments. The family doesn't need to see the horrible thngs that people are putting on here. My heart and prayers go out to the family and everyone involved in this tragedy.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      No, they do need to allow comments in exactly this type of situation. Maybe another mother will think before lifting their child over a safety barrier to look at carnivores. We learn from examples, not hide from them.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      I agree. I've spent some time this morning thinking about how this could have been avoided or what I might have done in that situation, but none of that matters. A family has lost their child and they will be reliving those moments and decisions for the rest of their lives. The best and most compassionate thing we can do is to let them know that we are sorry for their loss.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
    • pazke

      Bob, where does it say that the mother lifted him over the safety rail? I don't see that anywhere, and it is not appropriate for you to assume that.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Miller

      Bob, it is widely reported that she set the kid on the railing and he lost his balance and fell off. The mother was incredibly stupid for doing this. The zoo can only protect people so much, then it is left to common sense to do the rest. This mom had no common sense.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Zooman

      Read the Pittsburgh post-gazette web story and get the full facts, not the toned down version served up here. The mother lifted her 3 year old up onto a 4 foot high protective railing and let them stand there. The child then fell about 14 feet, bounced off a fence guard into the area, and hit the rocks at the bottom. It is not clear as of yet whether the fall or the dogs killed the child. There is also some question as to whether the mother was photographing the child or getting them a better view or what. Either way, common sense was clearly absent.

      I do feel sympathy for the child's death but these are the facts, not an accusation.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Miller

      Sorry Bob, I meant that idiot pazke. Also, CNN loves to distort the truth quite often it seems. The kid doesn't just "fall off the observation deck". She put the kid up on the railing.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sandra

    It makes me angry that a mother would put her child in harm's way. It's not the animal's fault. I have a 1 year old and he is my only child. If he went into the wall, I would go over after him. The dogs would have had to kill us both. I don't understand that part...

    November 5, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  15. bibleverse1

    I am saddened by what happened to that child, the mother, and the family. It is an extremely horribly situation.

    November 5, 2012 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
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