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. Bob

    Horrific.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Viper

      "African painted dogs are among the most endangered dog species in the world, with less than 5,000 left in the wild,"

      And the trigger happy cop makes it one less.. Nice going..

      November 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pragmatist

      Yeah, considering the child was already dead, they could have waited for the dog to come down, and come into its enclosure on its own. It's not as if the child was going to be less dead as time went on or something. I suspect the dog was shot for no other reason than to keep it from eating the child.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jim T.

      There's something wrong with you people. The animal was killed because no one knew if the child was dead or alive, and they needed to get to him and the dog wasn't allowing it. Nearly extinct or not, the police officer did the right thing. In fact, someone should have done something sooner and maybe the child would still be alive. If you're so into making sure these animals are protected, then go down to the zoo and voluntarily feed one of your family members to them. Remember to walk away from the screams for help.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • AM

      Who can say for certain that the child was dead ? He fell from 11 ft on a ground that is soft and covered with leaves. Kids are not heavy and sometimes survive falls from several stories

      November 7, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
  2. gramma nance

    Where the helll were the parents?

    November 4, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • RightTurnClyde

      The parents are liberals. They figure it is somebody else's job (it takes a village). They just have them. Besides the dogs looked cuddly and cute. The lady down the block has one just like it named Scruffy. So they were having a coke and a joint. It's so hard (parenting). Now they have to text all of their friends for sympathy and a bag. They'll blame somebody for it (couldn't be their fault) ... the zoo (maybe it has insurance), the city (insured too), the hospital and the doctor, the fence company, Bush, .. their lawyer can think of more ..

      November 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mitt

      Well said Clyde.
      These "parent" are part of the 47% I didn't care about.
      As presdient, I well use all fo the zoos across the country and feed these 47%ers to the animals.
      I'll set it up so that us rich folks can pay to watch and we'll use the money to build car elavators.

      November 5, 2012 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  3. Brenda

    I blame incompetent African painted dog owners (and the fear mongering media), not the breed, that are cause of the dogs bad rep. There is also no scientific proof that African painted dogs are more aggressive due to their "fighting".

    November 4, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ryan Bigleman

      A child is dead you sicko. It's not a time for a lame attempt at wittiness. You should be ashamed of yourself.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Michael McCollum

      You just did a great disservice to these children with your petty joke Brenda. Have some tact.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Coolbreeze

      Nobody cares who YOU blame

      November 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • LvGordo

      Brenda. I saw your point and agree. I don't think you are being callous at all and some how are making fun of the death of a child like these other bozos think. It is a tragedy.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • RightTurnClyde

      It's a tragedy, true, but all too often THAT is what the Pit Bull owners say when their dogs maul (child after child after child) and nobody objects. So why not wild dogs? Lions? Bears? They even do it for criminals .. just blow it off and trivialize it. She was merely illustrating THAT aspect of public indifference.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • TyrantInShorts

      There is no equivalency with pet dogs here. These were dogs behind a cage in a ZOO, not a pitbull inside somebody's home. It could just as easily have been crocs or lions. Dangerous animals are kept in cages in zoos for a reason. Unfortunately human stupidity knows no bounds, and that includes your logic.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Um, it's an entierely different species. These are wild dogs aka wolves.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. jon

    If it was my kid I would have jumped in immediately no matter what to protect the child the best i could from the dogs until help arrived even if it killed me. I wouldn't have let my child fall in in the first place. Parents responsibility, very tragic.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      No. You *think* you would have jumped from 14' feet. And you *think* you never would have let this happen. But all the coulda/would/shoulda in the world doesn't make it true. And I hope you never have to find out.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • RightTurnClyde

      That is why Jon would have taken better care to avoid it in the first place ... but I believe he WOULD have jumped in because the loss of a child is unimaginable (even when they are adult). Most of use would do ANYTHING to prevent it and I think he would have jumped in. You don't have kids yet (or .. you'd know that)

      November 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Catlover

      @Kay...I'd rather be Jon's kid than yours cuz its obvious you would let you kid get maulled. Would give anything to know how this happened.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abigail

      I'm right there with you Jon. Kay you're an idiot.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • AM

      I am with you John and Kay is so pathetic. Not only a coward but convinced nobody is better than that.

      November 7, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Beth

    That makes me feel sick. Don't ever complain about people being helicopter parents at this age, because you never know what sort of trouble toddlers will get into next.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Being a "helicopter parent" does NOT keep things like this from happening. Tragedies often occur in a split second.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abigail

      Kay you continue to be an idiot.

      November 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. bob lavelle

    A prayer goes out to the family who lost this child. And to those who already are playing the blame game. Shame on you" you dont have the right to point fingers at anyone. Were you there' did you see it with your own eyes. How can you be so cruel to blame anybody.
    Check your heart" a child has been killed. Are we so far gone as to not feel the hurt of a lost such as this.
    America is blessed" we are blessed to be able to say whats right and whats wrong. But this does not call for that. No" only prayer and love needs to be shown to all. A voice will cry no more' and a mother will never touch the small hands of her
    Child. So if you have a heart' then please speak up... But let it be with love and kindness.... Have we forgotten how to weep" GOD BLESS this family......GOD BLESS this nation

    November 4, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • IMHO17

      I sympathize with all who knew and loved this child, but this parent put the child God entrusted her with in harm's way. She'll have to live with the agony of if for as long as she lives. Her child suffered a horrific death because of her possibly one-time irresponsible act. I'll bet she wouldn't have let anyone raise her up higher than the enclosure, or dangle her legs over the enclosure. Why would she think it was okay to hold her child in such a way that should he wiggle, get bumped or anything that would disturb his balance, that he could be in danger. Why wouldn't she have checked her thinking that maybe this wasn't such a good idea. I appreciate you asking people to be kinder and less judgmental, but parents are entrusted with gifts from God. They should treat them as such and not put them in harm's way. This might be the only unthinking thing this mother has ever done with respect to her child, and she won't get a chance to change that. Maybe a lot of other parents will read about this and not make a similar mistake.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:17 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Josh

    How on earth was this toddler even in any kind of position to be able to fall 14 feet?

    November 4, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. L

    There is no way that kid could have fallen into the exhibit unless something extremely stupid was done on the part of the mother. At least only one of the dogs was killed. I never understand why TRANQUILIZER DARTS are not employed in this type of situation vs. outright murder of the animals.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kay

      Blaming the mother...when you don't even know what happened??? Oh yeah. THAT is bright.

      And whining about transquilizer darts? You apparently believe that they work instantaneously no matter where the animal is hit. Sorry...but that's not even close to being true. And, sorry, but if a wild animal is being particularl aggressive, the human beings trying to get it away from a 3 year old child do NOT have to allow themselves to be attacked.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • elliott

      well, for starters, murder is specific to human beings. secondly, when the life of an animal , any animal (yes, even the last golden rainbow-riding unicorn on the planet), is more valuable than the life of a human being...well, i shouldn't have to say any more. if i did, then you probably won't ever comprehend. poor dog? perhaps, but if it were so endeared to engender such sympathy, then it probably should have know not to maul a child in the first place.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • C

      The mother was holding him over the fence so he could see and she dropped him.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Cheezis

    Well here's a great followup story for Anderson Cooper and his roving reporter. I wonder if there were any rich people standing around who failed to jump in the middle of that dog pack and rescue the child? It's only 14ft. An average grown man in average shape could hang and drop the remaining 7 ft. Shouldn't Anderson Cooper and his reporter find out who was there and put them on camera to imply they committed a crime by not risking their lives to rescue the child?

    November 4, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Magician

      it is NEVER a crime to not offer assistance. Lack of heroism is not a punishable offense.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mari

      "Rich people"? Really? :-/ It's very easy to judge what should have/could have been done when you aren't there. You have no idea what went on and to speculate about the "rich people" or anyone who was there is absurd. They very well may have tried to get down there, they may not, but you don't know.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • RightontheLeftCoast

      What does the wealth of the bystanders have to do with this?

      November 4, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MITCHMONSTER

    So sorry.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  11. LI_Bri

    This dad would have died trying to protect his boy.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Janj

    When my kids were that age, I was paranoid about keeping them off fences and away of ledges. I have been to zoos where the parents were not as diligent watching their kids. It is a shame this happened.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Hide Behind

    Am not sorry to state I feel no compassion at all forr childs motherDo not give a damn about any facets of her life beyond this one incident.
    I especially care not how sad or not sad she feels, as so many weepingWillows and their conterpary quaking half men seem to concentrate on
    The innocence of that childs mind would have but fear if even that cognizant of its reality in its las moments before oblivion
    Now there I feel vompassion of deepest

    November 4, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Perilous

    That poor dog. 🙁

    November 4, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • jen

      "poor dog" ? you are kidding, right? A child was mauled to death and you only feel sorrow for a wild animal? This world is seriously messed up!

      November 4, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Report abuse |
  15. debbie

    I'd like to know how it is possible for anyone to fall into any dangerous pens in any zoo.I know kids can get away from their parents in a heartbeat and i'm a daycare provider...when you take kids to a zoo you want all protected.All dangerous animals need to be in a fenced off area and if there is a platform then the pen needs to be fenced off a the top.With not knowing this zoo and the way this area is designed..i can't say what was wrong but NO CHILD or adult should be able to fall into this pen.Fence the dam thing off..this is horrible.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cherries

      Sounds like a one in a million freak accident. He might have climbed onto the fence for a better view. Horrible none the less.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • jerry

      darwin

      November 4, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • ytman

      No idea how this could have happened. The kid must have been unattended or the adults were letting him climb the fence in a dangerous way (or worse the kid could have fallen by mistake of the parent). There is no way he 'just fell in there'. The exhbit is a patio with a viewfinder and a fence taller than any three year old.

      I know the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium and this simply couldn't have happened without some serious failure. More importantly, I would have jumped down there if the kid was my charge.

      The whole zoo is a perfectly safe environment for attendees who follow the simple rules of not going over fences.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kate

      The fence on the observation deck comes to my ribs (I am 5'7") There have been tweets that the mother was holding this poor child up for a "better view". This is a horrible accident.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • BAR

      This sounds more like poor parenting.........who isn't holding on to a child that small near something like this?

      November 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      She intentionally put her child up on the ledge.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Report abuse |
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