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. Mary

    There is only one person responsible and that is the mother. She should not have perched her child up on a ledge to get a better look...plain and simple. These dogs are wild animals. What do you think they're going to do in a situation like this? The Zookeepers did the right thing by going in to retrieve the child's body, but to blame the dogs is extremely short sighted.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Jason

    There's a reason African dogs are not in petting zoos. It's unfortunate that someone died, but blaming the dogs for doing what they do, in their own enclosure, is completely asinine. It's sad a child died and it's sad that an animal had to be shot. It sounds like some people want to get retribution on the dogs. Ever hear the phrase, "like a pack of wild dogs"? They are famously ill-tempered and aggressive. Split the fault between the mother and maybe the zoo if the fence wasn't sufficient. Leave the dogs out of the blame game.

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

      Sure, the dogs are without blame, but I would kill all of them to save a kid of 3 years old without a single tear for them. These folks complaining about the one dog being killed are mental. Period.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist


      Uh, no, jake, you would be mental as you put it. It is apparent you do not have reasoning skills. Maybe a course at a local college might help?

      November 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • JonG

      Totally agree with Jake. Anyone who equates the mauling death of a toddler with the shooting death of a wild dog that was mauling him is straight up mental, period. They lack empathy and are most likely a psychopath. Certainly not people that could be themselves trusted with a child.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm | Report abuse |
  3. shadowmatrix

    As human beings we should all be shot for our pompous, arrogant, self-righteous, self-important, egotistical view on life. This is a lesson people. We're not always on the top of the food chain. I could care less if the mother tossed the baby into the pen or it was an accident. The end result is our arrogance came back to bite us in the ass. We take wild animals from the natural habitat, throw them in tiny enclosures, pretend they're back in the "wild jungles of Africa" by throwing up fences around them, charge money for people to gawk at them, and then kill them with the mentality of how dare they act like wild animals to one of our own!

    November 5, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Spot on!

      November 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • LC

      Exactly!!! 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 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • JonG

      Are you volunteering by offering to start with the toddlers? Responding to the mauling death of a toddler by saying that humans should be shot is a strange reaction indeed. Hope I never have to run into you in the street.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Representative T. Bagger (R-TX)

    If he was carrying an AR-15 like a real american rather than walking around without his strap like some sort of yankee pansy he could have simply loaded the dogs full of hollow points just like the Lord Jesus intended

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

      don't feed the trolls people

      November 5, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  5. shutupinternet

    this is tragic, but i'm sure the full details are still lacking. this will be painful for the parents and family of the child, and also for the zoo staff. i hope all the facts come out because unless this observation deck was faulty somehow then the zoo should not be held accountable, but you know in our society a lawsuit is imminent regardless. if this kid's parent(s) was doing something stupid, like letting him stand on a ledge then the zoo is not responsible, they're responsible for the death of their own child. I hope justice is served either way, but the zoo is not necessarily responsible. there are a lot of crappy parents in our "me first" society. I hope this plays out right and not that just some greedy lawyer and incompetent parents profit off this tragedy. wild animals are wild animals and sometimes humans get reminded of that in the worst possible way.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • JessZ

      The zoo should sue the parents for the recovery of money lost on their endangered animal and their lose of revenue for the days they have been closed due to this parents stupidity. I would hope CPS is looking into the well being of any other children in this home since the mother shows clear lack of judgment.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jon

      If my kid were to fall in an animal pen, regardless of what's in there, you better believe I'm going in after him.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I was thinking the same thing Jon, a handful of adult males jump in after him and keep them at bay until tranqs or zoo staff are deployed. The last thing I could do is live with myself watching my kid be killed in such a way.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Yes Jon, and you too would be dead...You wouldnt last 1 minute..Reality is you wouldnt jump in and your comment is all false bravo.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JonG

      You must not have kids Marcus. Most parents would not hesistate to sacrifice their own lives for that of their kids.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Shareen

    Here is part of the Associated Press story which has more information:

    "PITTSBURGH — A mother's attempt to give her 2-year-old son a better view of wild African dogs turned into a fatal tragedy after the boy fell into the exhibit and was attacked by a pack of the animals as relatives and bystanders looked on.

    The mother had picked the child up and put him on top of a railing at the edge of a viewing deck at the Pittsburgh Zoo late Sunday morning, Lt. Kevin Kraus of the Pittsburgh police said.

    "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's not yet clear whether the boy died from the fall or the attack, said Barbara Baker, president of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Zoo officials at first estimated the boy fell 14 feet, but police said it was 11. It's not clear which is correct.

    The Allegheny County medical examiner planned an autopsy Monday, and the boy's name was not expected to be released until that was complete."

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

      We should charge the mother for negligence...

      November 5, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  7. NyNick

    Thats sad, however, it was meant to happen. The mother is paying for her sin. the child goes to heaven. animals have souls, their souls die with their body once they die. They do not have spirits, Humans have spirits. Such is the image of God (spirit)

    November 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • whineyface

      you're an idiot

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

      I forgot to mention....i'm high as a kite!

      November 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • nadinesh

      Agreed. Nynick is an idiot.

      November 5, 2012 at 12:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • KT

      you are sick, sick, sick.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mspeed311

      Please never reproduce, EVER!

      November 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Anomic Office Drone

      That's imbecilic. If God was constantly meddling in people's lives and punishing them here on earth, there would be no need for heaven, hell or free will, and the choices you make would be irrelevant.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • VonPapen

      It's too bad this doesn't happen to more people. Less evolved monkeys, more lovable animals, I always say. VON PAPEN OUT!!!!!

      November 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Animals do not have souls, they die and are forgotten...the same as when you die.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • df66

      Do you have any idea how silly you sound? Defending a (mythical) god who's will is to send children to their death... reality isn't your thing, is it?

      November 5, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. wow

    How the hell could a 3 year old get any kind of access? Why did none of the bystanders jump in and start kicking the dogs away? Unacceptable. Humans used to hunt in packs. That should have been an automatic reaction?

    November 5, 2012 at 12:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • shutupinternet

      next time you see a single threatening canine harass someone walking down your street go intervene with no weapons, then condemn others for not jumping 14 feet into an animal enclosure with a dozen ravenous wild dogs around, idiot.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Burbank

      They are 4 legged pirrannahs when they are on a kill. Anyone else would have ended up as food too. I dare you to try it and find out!

      November 5, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Animal Behaviorist NY

      The mother is completely to blame for this tragedy! She lifted this child up and had him standing on a railing over the edge of the exhibit!!! How STUPID was that?!?!?! I'm sorry, but you'd be hard pressed to find ANY SANE human who would leap over the guards down a 14 foot drop to try and fight a pack of wild dogs! That would be SUICIDE! You wouldn't stand a chance against them. It would have resulted in more people being killed. These are WILD ANIMALS...and they are superior to us in many ways...not the least of which is killing.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • BAR

      They should have thrown this 'mother' in after the child. I feel for the child, but have no sympathy for her stupidity.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • To WOW

      Wow – have a clue – the mother placed the child on the platform so he could see better. It isn't the dogs fault – it's human error on the part of the mother, and she will pay for this for the rest of her life.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      Men would have jumped in, but women just stand and scream. It was daytime at a zoo so probably only women and their small children were present.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ben Rivera

      You would have been there crying like a baby habibi as you did nothing at all. What are you playing at? lol

      November 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • sam stone

      yeah. jump into pit of wild dogs. we'll be right behind you

      November 5, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  9. humans first

    seriously reading these post from morons who think an" animals life is just as important as a human" really seriously? and "poor dog"......animals are animals well below humans...thats why we usually have them in zoos,and eat them. Don't get me wrong i love animals,i have a dog,cat and a hamster living in my house,but my children come way before any animal.I would shoot my own dog if were to harm mine or any other child. I live in a neighbourhood on the skirts of town and we are having problems with coyotes,they have been attacking pets and sooner or later it will be a child. So a few of the guys around here have been going "hunting ",soon the coyote problem around here will be solved. They are not extinct around here but they are working on it. RIP to the young lad,no way for any human to die.

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

      Thank you for posting this.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Burbank

    They "most likely deliberately" didn't report the whole story. The boy was killed because his mother put him on top of the fence and somehow he fell in. I don't know if she wasn't hanging on to him or if he squirmed out of her hands. Anyway, the poor mother will have to live with the horror and guilt of it for the rest of her life.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Elaine

    This is a horrific story, my heart goes out to this young boy's parents. No one should blame his mother. However, zoos are a cruel place. Frustrated, bored and frightened animals are basically in jail in this horrid places and perhaps this is shy the react in such a ghastly way. Prayers to all.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • shutupinternet

      many zoos are like concentration camps due to their crappy conditions, others are sanctuaries that help to save species that might otherwise be extinct, in no small part due to humans. the world is not so black and white.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • BAR

      "nobody should blame the mother" ????? Are you high? This woman should be arrested for child endangerment. She held him up over a fence......a fence which is made a certain height for a REASON.......over a pit containing wild animals at a zoo............That is beyond poor judgement !!!! If that is not endangerment, I don't know what is. Would you hold your 3 year old up above a second floor balcony so he could see better?

      November 5, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. shutupinternet

    wild predatory animals eat flesh, even human flesh. this child was thrust into their domain and was consumed as prey. someone is responsible, either the zoo, the parents or both. these are the only know facts. hopefully the right PEOPLE are held held accountable. don't blame the animals, and don't feed the trolls.

    November 5, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Erica

    do I think they should have let the dog continue to maul a dead body? No. But I also think that the zoo should have had heavy tranquilizers by then, allowing them to sedate the dog. There are only 5000 left. That mother, tragically, was an idiiot. There are signs all over zoos saying to not do such things, and she did it anyways. WHY would you put a three year old on top of the fence?

    It is a tragedy the young child died... but the tragedy is compounded by the killing of an endangered species, one that is being bred in order to save it.

    November 5, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Nikki Johnson

    As a responsible parent you need to have your child grasped tight as hell. I Say it was the parents mistake and then killing the animal for doing what it was born to do which is eat and kill is just stupid. Poor baby died because of an irresponsible parent. Tragic for the baby and the dog but i feel no sympathy for the parent.

    November 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • Burbank

      Getting your own offspring killed due to your stupidity is also a Darwin Award. Too bad it wasn't the parent instead of the baby.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • mamabear

      I am so relieaved that there are others think the mother is an idot fyi people who dont know the zoo there are signs everywhere I guess there should of been a sign " Dont dangle your kid over a pit of wild dogs: maybe she should of let him swim in the shark tank and another thing there is no way he could of"fell in" no way that kid would of fell backwards its just not possiable we will find out lter she( id say mother but she no kind of mother) was poat baby depression,I am so angrey by people calling her a great mother WHAT! I feel bad for the father and the baby not her .Her story does not jive and if I can come to the the police will hopefuully I want to start a blog mothers against poor parenting MAPP Ill call it MAP thank you for being a fair and smart person hopefully others feel the same.

      November 9, 2012 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
  15. lepke

    Why nobody jumped in right then right there. Not one person from the crowd. Especially the Mother. I am a mother. I would rather be eaten alive then watch my child being mauled to death. An adult, especially more adults would have had a good chance to save the kid or distract the animals. The taller you are the less chance you have to be attacked. So so sad.

    November 5, 2012 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
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