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. Free Willy

    Horrible accident. Sure Mom is in shock. a lot of second guessing here. When I worked at zoo I had a cook book. Should be 4,989 dogs left. Zoos SUCK!!!!!

    November 5, 2012 at 2:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Anders Behring Breivik (King of the Island)

    To bad the mother didn't carry a gun. She could have tried to save her child and if that failed, she could have used the last bullet on herself.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Mike

    You aren't in a court of law. The child is being attacked by dogs, and by one especially that won't stop attacking. The dog's motives are irrelevant.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. snookers

    It was a freak accident. The toddler could have ask his mom to get a better look at the "doggies".
    To mom , they may not have looked that dangerous, not like lions, tigers or polar bears.
    There apparently was a net but not designed to catch humans.
    She made a bad decision and is paying horrible for it. Toddlers fall off balconies, several stories high out of windows, drown in swimming pools etc. Due to unintentional bad decisions. Leave the mom alone.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • concernced

      three words. African WILD Dogs.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Controversy

    Anyone else think this may be "The perfect crime??"
    Was this child insured? The way the world is today, I gotta wonder. Seems to careless an act, sorry just saying.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • whowhowho

      yes , but from whose side , may be dog being more precious was insured for 100 times more sum then any human could have been , it was zoo's direction that child setped in-perhaps , or , how about a conspiracy between kids parents and zoo's management -win-win for both right
      dude dont take lsd , xanex, dopamine at the same time

      November 5, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jayman419

      I went to the zoo last summer. The spot where she must have lifted the kid to see over the railing is about 15 feet away from a glass-walled room-thing that projects over the enclosure. There's nowhere at the exhibit where you can not see the glass-walled room-thing jutting over the exhibit and the guests inside it.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kerry Alexander

      As the mother of a 2 1/2 year old son I was sickened to hear that the child's mother held him up on the rail and he fell in....what was she thinking????? They are wild dogs not ducks....I feel she was irresponsible...If it had been my child I would have never held him up there but by god would have jumped in to try to save him or perish too....Bless that childs heart...even an animal would protect its young from a pack of dogs...not that woman....shame on her!!!!!!!!!

      November 5, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Wendy

    Where were the parents? They should have kept a better eye on the kid AND if my child somehow did fall in, I'd go in after him/her even knowing I might be eaten. I'm sorry a child had to die because of other people's stupidity.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bee

      The mother stood her child on top of the fence for him to see better. Careless.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Me

    Kill all the darn dogs and they will never kill another hyuman ever again. A win win.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Shows your ignorance, bravo sir.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lee

      yes kill an endangered species because they acted like they'd re suppose to thats real bright fool.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
  8. T

    Bystanders watched these dogs attack this kid for over 5 minutes, doing nothing. I've been to the Pittsburgh Zoo and seen these dogs and they aren't that big...It astounds me how nobody would risk themselves to even attempt to save this child...goes to show how selfish people are. Absolutely pathetic

    November 5, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      I am pretty sure these are the same breed of dogs that have been known to take down a lion. I doubt if the kid was still alive when he fell 14 feet he lasted more than a few seconds with these dogs. I watched a show in which they devoured an animal in under 30 seconds and you expect a bystander to jump to the rescue. More like jump to their death.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • T

      Yeah I do expect that bystanders try to do something. Even if the child did die from the fall nobody knew that, its a matter of trying to save a life of a child. And in the wild yeah but I doubt you have seen the african painted dogs at this zoo take down a lion..these things are small and have been domesticated their whole lives.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Devin J. Tomb

      I'd expect someone to jump in and risk themselves. Maybe not someone who isn't a parent, but my god, before that child made it all the way down, I'd be jumping over without even thinking about it. I can't imagine asking people if they'd jump in or not and having them say of course they wouldn't. Would those dogs mess me up and potentially kill me? Probably. But I'd do anything to protect a little child like that. It wouldn't even be a question in my mind. I'd just do it.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:02 pm | Report abuse |
    • BurgMom

      So my husband should have jumped into the enclosure, risking his life, and more than likely being killed himself to protect a child that isn't even his? And what of the wife and three kids he would leave behind?

      November 5, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • barfly

      plenty of darwin awards to go around

      November 5, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • T

      Would you want someone to try to save your child. Who cares who the child belongs to, its still a child. What about military members who do the exact thing you just described, risk their lives for other people's..you are a prime example of how selfish people are.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • CT

      Why didn't the boys Mom go after him? I'm sorry but I have an 8 year old and he shouldn't lose his Mom to a pack of dogs because of another's Mom lack of parenting. This is horrible death and very sad.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  9. xeno

    This is awful, but I can't say these types of stories surprise me much. I have seen so many parents in so many places allowing or assisting their children to do things that are just senseless.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Josh

    Standing the child on the ledge was a dumb thing to do. We've all done dumb things before, usually we get away with it but sometimes it hits you hard. It wouldn't be right to charge the parents. It wasn't the zoos fault either. You can only do so much to protect people from doing stupid things.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • whowhowho

      Shows your ignorance, bravo sir.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      HAHA wrong Josh, good try on the comeback, bravo sir..

      November 5, 2012 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      While I believe this was an accident, there is most definately accountability. There was a life lost due to pour parenting. And while the mother will live with the guilt the rest of her life she should still be accountable for her neglect. How does a two year old get up on a railing? She obviously put him there and or he climbed up and she was not watching him carefully. Actions have reactions and people need to take responsibilty and not be so careless. And the zoo should have safer measures to protect the guests that attend. If these animals are THAT dangerous to where it takes seconds to kill then there should be a mote with double fence to protect spectators in case of accidents like this. Very sad and extremely preventable.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Liz

      Well said, thank you. The mother did a stupid thing and, as a result, will no doubt suffer the guilt for the rest of her life. I feel sad for the little boy and for the family.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Le

    The mother of that child failed as a parent. As a parent myself, if I did something that stupid as putting my child in harms way, I accept and own up to my terrible lack of sense and responsiblity towards my family. Wild animals are wild animals. Those African dogs were in an enclosed area for their protection from humans. Even without warning signs, any individual and all visitors to the Zoo should use common sense that these are not household pets they are looking at and observe from a distant for their safety. People should respect rules of a Zoo for their protection as well as the animals.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
  12. keith

    Obviously some staffer from CNN has already performed an autopsy on the child. How else would CNN know that the dogs killed the child and not the 14 foot friggin fall!

    November 5, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • JonG

      But Barbara Baker, president of the zoo, told reporters Sunday that the child died from a mauling by the 11 dogs in the enclosure. The Post-Gazette has video of Baker's comments and one witness's account of what happened.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdk

      Good point.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  13. love dogs but

    I have a dog, and love them as pets but The concept that we need to be concerned over a particular wild species going extinct is ridiculous. This exhibit should be closed and the breeding program ceased until safety of the general public can be guaranteed. Let's stop insinuating that this is the parents fault. Implying such a thing sends a message that parenting mistakes are unacceptable, that kids don't wonder off and get lost etc. The park has a legal obligation to ensure that kids can't accidentally enter a deadly situation of the parks own making, not the parents. It shouldn't be difficult to provide a safety zone between the fencing and the habitat area as a safeguard to someone falling in and yet this is the third such story I've read over the past twelve months. Shame on the park and shame on those who consider it acceptable that anything less than 100% perfect parenting would put your kids at risk of death while on an outing in a family oriented park. There is a reason 3 year olds are not allowed on space mountain and I think this zoo consider that their exhibits need stepped up entrance requirements. The assumption that everyone can read the caution sign while chasing down multiple children is a wrong one. Proof of this is in this death.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      Hate to sound callus but if it doesn't personally affect me it is sadder that 1 of 5000 of an endangered species is killed rather than 1 of 7.5 billion of a species that is destroying this world.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • csm

      first of all, the mother put the child on the barrier, secondly, the parent is at fault, and thirdly, she has to live with it. Its called neglect, stupid, whatever you choose.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Josh

      I'd say your arguement just got shot down. BTW, since we have had two people die at sporting events in the past year after falling over a railing that met proper requirements (as did the zoo railing you so insist is unsafe) should we make those railing 10 feet tall? Your arguement fails.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Le

      I am going to repeat this again since I find it strange that anyone would expect less of what a parent should be and what kids can and often do. Sure, there are no perfect parents and kids aren't born with personal safety on their minds but...

      The mother of that child failed as a parent. As a parent myself, if I did something that stupid as putting my child in harms way, I accept and own up to my terrible lack of sense and responsiblity towards my family. Wild animals are wild animals. Those African dogs were in an enclosed area for their protection from humans. Even without warning signs, any individual and all visitors to the Zoo should use common sense that these are not household pets they are looking at and observe from a distant for their safety. People should respect rules of a Zoo for their protection as well as the animals.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • John

      The zoo's responsibility is to keep the animals inside of the enclosure, not to keep the dumbest of society out of it. If people are going to go over fences, or place their child over a fence, then they accept the risk that goes along with that.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Mom, Zoo and Officer......

    This story breaks my heart....The child was an innocent, the dogs following nature, in a man made enclosure and the police officer trying to save a child, doing his job. All the elements of a horrifying scenario, came together.
    Just as, the perfect storm, hurricane Sandy. We all want to point a finger, to whose at fault.
    The Mom: Had a responsibility to protect her child, in a place where wild animals are exhibited.
    The Zoo: Had a responsibility, to ensure the safety of the public with a sound enclosure.
    The Police Officer: Doing his job to protect and serve.
    Unless someone was actually there, to see all this transpire, can we say what was right or wrong?.
    Yes, we can have opinions on what we've read or heard.
    However, the bottom line ( in my opinion) is instinct and emotion was living in the moments of trying to do the right thing for all.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Get Real

    I smell a seriously large law suit.

    November 5, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • snookers

      Yes, from the painted dogs . Their exhibit lacked adequate protection from non thinking humans.

      November 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
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