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. Brooks

    Ok so it sucks that the child died but it is not the fault of the animal, it's the parents' fault. They should be charged with neglect. The WILD ANIMAL was doing what any WILD ANIMAL would do. I'm sorry but this is an endangered species that was in a cage for a reason, neither deserved to die but don't place the childs' life over that of the animal just because it's human.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      "Just because its human". Yes we should let the dog feast on the child. It is valuable protein after all.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Thor

    I can't even imagine the horror of watching a three year old child being ripped to pieces by dogs at the zoo. Much less, can I imagine the horror of watching my own child being torn to bits by them and consumed. Simply unacceptable. Who designed this exhibit?

    November 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • NGB22

      MOre important, where were the parents!!??

      November 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Michael

    Blame who you want, but the officers should have gotten down there and killed all of the dogs. I don't care if it was THE last painted dog down there, he should have been killed. Anyone who says otherwise is just not a parent, or not a loving parent.....

    November 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      i agree

      November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      So because a parent is negligent, that means we should kill animals.

      Maybe this mother should be killed for allowing her child to fall in a zoo enclosure.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
  4. paintbikedog

    I would be waiting to hear more about the condition of the child after the fall, but like many of my fellow posters, I wonder why any adults did not go in after the child. 5 or so able bodied adults should've been able to disuade cape dogs.

    Capes are not small, they're about the size of a big german shepherd, with much longer legs. Their heads and jaws are massive, rivaling that of hyenas.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
  5. prosegardener

    You don't kill all of the dogs because an idiot mother didn't protect her child. Holding a kid on top of the enclosure meant to protect him is idiotic, you are your child's last line of defense. Do not let the kid down like this – she failed him in every way.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • katrina

      do you feel better now? Is the death less important because she made a mistake? You should be ashamed. Is there no compassion for the family. And get this, ALL dogs are wild or otherwise are capable of this. Even your little scruffy will attach.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      thats astupid comment she did not allow him to fall in

      November 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      taht was meant for bigot

      November 5, 2012 at 12:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      "thats astupid comment she did not allow him to fall in"

      LOL then please tell me how it happened. Blame falls on the parents.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      Are you mental???? don't kill the dog??? when stuff goes wrong, it goes wrong, the childs life is more valuable than all the dogs.... what is wrong with you for even thinking to say this?

      November 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      " the childs life is more valuable than all the dogs.... what is wrong with you for even thinking to say this"

      Who are you to determine which life is more valuable?

      November 5, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • blink182babe

      Please, pet dogs are domesticated. They have been for thousands of years. They still attack because they are animals, just like people. We kills things too. The mother is at fault 100% for putting her child on top of the ledge of a predatory pack animals enclosure. What person would think that's ok? Accidents happen, but the was preventable.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. katrina

    Leave your stupidity at home where everybody already knows you are a pill. I am so sorry that she lost her baby. That is all. You no lifers are a joke. My condolences to the family. period.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      real stupidity is allowing your child to fall in a zoo enclosure.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  7. PushingBack

    LOL! This just in: Man with pen eaten alive by pack of African dogs. News at 11!

    November 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Green1955

    Get over people. Accidents happen and its not the mothers fault. When an animal ( which does not have a soul) kills a human it should be immediately destroyed. These dogs were well fed and should of never attacked a small child. The mother should sue the zoo for negligence and the state should cut funding to the zoo for punishment.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      "When an animal ( which does not have a soul) kills a human it should be immediately destroyed."

      LOL please enlighten me as to how you know animals do not have souls and humans do. I would love to hear this...

      November 5, 2012 at 12:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      Your an idiot. The zoo did nothing wrong. Animals by the way have souls and I am not going to fault an animal for doing something which is in its instinct. These are packing hunting dogs that go after animals there around there size (maybe bigger, maybe smaller) depending what the pack can handle. This mother should have to pay for any damages, medical expenses, or other costs to the zoo. Secondly charge HER with child endangerment and MURDER!

      November 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • ur stupid

      They should only be destroyed if the attack was unprovoked, [a child falling into their territory would send the pack into a frenzy (basic animal behavior)], the mother instead should probably go to court instead of the zoo for negligence

      November 5, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      That is the most ridiculous comment on here. They're animals and they don't attack because they're hungry.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • a-lo

      These dogs are WILD animals, not domestic pets. It is not the animals' fault that the zoo was negligent with their enclosure. It isn't their fault that they are in an enclosure to begin with. People forget that we are also members of the food chain whether we like it or not, and while the zoo should absolutely be held responsible for negligence, the dogs should not be executed for behaving as any wild animals would behave. One dog was already killed in an effort to save the boy, but now it's too late for that. I absolutely give my condolences to the family, who I am sure was just enjoying a day at the zoo. But a wild animal shouldn't have to pay for it's life for being a wild animal.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "When an animal ( which does not have a soul) kills a human it should be immediately destroyed. These dogs were well fed and should of never attacked a small child."

      Alright then, let's take a look at that statement:

      1. A dog doesn't have a soul

      Please provide proof of a soul and then that a dog doesn't have one.

      2. If an animal killed a human in protecting another human, let's say an intruder in your home is there to rob and murder you and your family and your family dog, Sherman the German, attacks the intruder and rips his throat apart, should that dog be put down?

      November 5, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • JEM

      Interesting. Stupid, moronic and without an ounce of truch but interesting none the less.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reason

      Hundreds of thousands visited the exhibit without any "accidents". There was an "accident" yesterday due to the mothers gross negligence, not the zoos.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • jcbrown

      green1955 - pukeface

      November 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawless

      If your intention was to make the dumbest comment of the day then you've won.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vet-Tech

      Wow, you really are an IDIOT! I sit here an seriously LOL at your comment. WOW! How in the HELL do you know an animal doesn't have a soul!?!? Please, do tell how you know this! First of all, yes, the mother is at fault! She should've NEVER put her small child up on that deck! Did you not read, he lost his balance. If she had a firm, secure grip on him, he should've never lost his balance! She will have to live with her stupid "mistake" for the rest of her life! These are wild animals who only do what comes naturally to them! They have never been shown affection or trained to be domesticated so of course they see a small child fall into their enclosure and nature takes it course! These dogs were not maliciously killing this child for $h!ts n gits but because that is what they were born to do! If nobody has a soul, it's heartless monsters out in this world that KNOW better and still do horrible things to children , adults, and animals! So please STFU because you know nothing!

      November 5, 2012 at 12:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • amanda

      animals have souls, anything that lives has a soul according to the original meaning of the word.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Read between the lines, people. Green is making fun of right-wingers by being so over the top.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michelle

      I agree. Animals have souls. These were WILD animals doing what they know best as if they were in the WILD. This was negligence on the mothers part, she is down right an idiot for placing her child on that rail as if he were going to stand perfectly still. My son is the same age, we take him to the zoo many times... If i wanted him to have a better look I would HOLD him so he could see! I feel bad that her baby died, but I hope she blames herself for his death.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • shutupinternet

      you ARE an idiot. I agree with that sentiment. and then you invoke souls?? animals don't have them, humans if this is known?? of course you know it, well you think you do. and your views are all that matters, i know your type. the dumb, scared kind. facts are not known about this case yet you say the zoo should be shut down basically? you're kind is the problem with our society, scared, myopic (look it up), cowards that are afraid of a world that consists of many things unlike yourself.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • JonG

      I can say with certainty that animals do not have souls. What is harder to say is whether or not humans have them.

      Anyway, any human that would allow an animal to maul a child rather than shooting it is cold, emotionless psychopath, and it is without question that shooting the animal that refused to release its grip on the toddler was the only acceptable decision.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
  9. umberto

    i wouldnt wory about this species. they can do in vitro fertilization and your labradoodle can carry the pups to birth. why didnt mom jump in after the kid??? how many does she have???

    November 5, 2012 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
  10. john

    The 14 foot drop surely knocked the child out but what in the world was his mother doing ?? Texting ??

    November 5, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • JonG

      Screaming for help, actually.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm | Report abuse |
  11. teresa

    Sad and regrettable... but unfortunately we see this sort of dangerous parenting all the time. I live in Omaha, and often go to the awesome zoo here and see THIS sort of "holding the child dangerously close or over the ledge" type of thing all the time.
    ALSO... how many of you often see parents, wheeling around a shopping cart, with their kid STANDING up in it?? I lost track of how many times I've seen the kid go tumbling out of the cart!! Yet you continue to see it all the time... a small head hitting a concrete floor, is a no win situation.
    Parents need to stop being so stupid.....

    November 5, 2012 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. katfishers

    Someone has to say it: "The dingo ate your baby!"

    November 5, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ

      Yes, that's a funny joke... except that it's not.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • LC

      Sadly, that's the first thing that popped into my head too...

      I'm a Pittsburgher – there are warning signs everywhere at the zoo... These are wild animals – if you don't want to see wild animals then don't go to the zoo, but don't blame the animals for being wild.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. KJ

    Listen Everyone,

    It was poor judgement on behalf of this child's mother, and the dogs were doing what came natural to them. Blaming anyone or anything does not eradicate the situation. It's a tragedy all around, and arguing about who to blame or making someone feel worse for a bad decision isn't going to solve the problem. This woman I'm sure had good intentions and wanted her child to see the wonderment of the animals. She was not displaying good judgement, that is true, but to say she was a horrible negligent mother isn't true either. Until you put yourself in the situation, to sit and point fingers and call each other stupid names over this situation is ludicrous. This woman is going to live with this horrible lapse in judgement the rest of her life. Ease up here. As far as shooting the dogs, that is completely wrong too. People – start putting compassion in yourselves and stop acting like a bunch of vicious animals... these dogs behave better than you!

    November 5, 2012 at 12:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Hands down the best post yet.

      Haven't we all at some point done something dumb (maybe while driving a car at 70 mph) and said to ourselves, "wow, that could have been really bad." And as far as the dogs, blaming them and wanting to shoot them makes as much sense as blaming a lake and wanting to drain it after someone drowns. It was simply a very sad and unfortunate incident.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lawless

      Glad you straightened everyone out... LMAO.. Thanks KJ!

      November 5, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • KJ


      No it wasn't.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mom

    For all you animal lovers out there, if it were your child how would you feel? I can not believe how cruel human beings can be! I feel horrible for this mother. Her life will never be the same! You people really need to grow a heart and leave this woman alone! As we all know she will be her worst critic! People who live in glass houses should not throw stones!

    November 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • bigot

      and I cant believe how stupid parents can be....smh

      November 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
  15. June

    I say stop breeding these African dog beasts; let the mongrels die out. What a nightmare, so sad for the parents. And shame on the zoo for not providing more safety regarding the structure of the exhibit.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      "I say stop breeding these African dog beasts; let the mongrels die out."

      Voting for Romney are ya?

      November 5, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
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