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. Rupali

    I, myself, a mother, cannot take this bruttal killing of an infant. How can a mother do such thing? Why didn't she go herself to rescue the child? It does not matter whether they were wild or not, but she should have acted to protect her child rather watching. There must have been time lag when the response team acted. This story is hauting me. I wish no one has to deal with such a pain and separation from their dear ones!

    November 5, 2012 at 3:55 pm | Report abuse |
  2. snookers

    I can not understand it . Baffled. Why on earth would somebody perch a wobbly toddler on a ledge with a 14 feet drop. You would not do that on a third story balcony ledge to get a better look at the street parade.

    November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Nancy

    This little boy was only 3 years old – WHERE were his parents/caretaker & WHY was he not being held while observing the exhibit. Ultimately, I deem this as parental/caretaker negligence, contributing to this little boy falling, subsequently and quite unfortunately being mauled to death. Also have to ask why the zookeepers couldn't control the dogs adequately – training must be faulty as well. MAY THIS LITTLE BOY R.I.P. as his parents come to grips with his death and certainly what they could have done better to PREVENT this unfortunate tragedy.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      When any animal is frenzied or in a 'pack mentality' NO amount of training (for the caretakers or the dogs) would be adequate to stop the mauling. The dogs did what WILD dogs do, for Pete's sake. Sadly, the mother did not do what all mothers should do – protect her child by not placing him in harm's way.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Allan

      this is not your usual zoo. this is more of a breeding and reservation center for the endangered wild dogs, so it has to be as natural as it can be.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • TDotDizzle

      They're WILD dogs, you moron... not a sheltie you can teach to roll over! SMH.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Ad

    Charge the MOTHER!

    November 5, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mei

      I don't think the mother should be charged at all. She will suffer the rest of her life, having to watch her baby get torn to pieces by animals that are very vicious. Believe me, she will suffer the rest of her life with the memory of her little boy dying this way. It is sick to wish more evil upon this mother.

      November 5, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      I agree. They should at least make her serve community service cleaning out the cages of the dogs and feeding them.

      November 5, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cassandria M.

    It took TWO police officers to open fire and kill the remaining dog? Couldn't do it with just one? How many shots does it take to kill a dog anyway?

    November 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Grateful

    This is horrible. My instinct is to jump in and try to save my child, shield him and try to fight off the dogs. Hopefully, it will buy some time for my child until zoo personnel arrives. I would rather die than live the rest of my life with the grief.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Kate

    Stupid mother!

    November 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  8. carol

    I just dont understand why parents dont think!! This tragic did not have to happen!!

    November 5, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Ann

    There is a possibility that the mother was trying to kill the child. Gruesome, but happens all the time. I certainly hope they look at that angle as well.

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

      You focus on this when a baby was devoured by animals in front of many? If this what you say indeed DID happen, I'll make sure to acknowledge your comment and congratulate you on writing the script ♥

      November 5, 2012 at 6:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vigil

      The "facts" of the story certainly don't add up. The top slat of the wood railing is tilted at a 45 degree angle which would make it impossible for anyone to "stand" upon it. I think there's much more to the story than is being released to the media while the investigation is ongoing.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • WellHello

      Vigil, I can stand fine on a 45" angle, and so can many many people. No comment on the story, but that is an absurd notion.

      November 5, 2012 at 8:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Fred

    I license should be required before allowing people to have kids. Toooo many idiots out there. I feel for the dog, who was only acting naturally in the Zoo environment. Isn't that why people go to gawk and harrass them?

    November 5, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Leslie

      Agree 100%

      November 5, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Erin

    Why should the entire zoo or exhibit be closed because someone accidentally dropped their child in the zoo's exhibit? People need to THINK!!!!! I know this was a very tragic accident and my heart goes out to the family and mother who will undoubtedly live with this grief for the rest of her live, but what do you except WILD animals to do? Just because you remove a wild animal from it's natural habitat doesn't mean that makes it any less wild.

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

      They should've reinforced the fencing or something. And they quarantined the dogs. so they should close that exhibit

      November 5, 2012 at 11:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Crow

      Good question. I would guess they closed it when police starting shooting real guns instead of the tranquilizer dart guns they SHOULD have been given. Of course the officer will not suffer the same fate that an ordinary person would have gotten for discharging a firearm in a crowded public place,

      November 6, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Barbara

    Well I live in Pittsburgh PA and this is a horriable accident..I do believe the mother is just stupid..why in the hell would you ever put your child on the railing.and for the men who stood there and did nothing...shame on you..as far as killing this stupid wild dog who gives a crap... he was muling a very innocent baby to death..As a adult I know for a fact I would have jumped in and did whatever I could have to try to save this little innocent baby. so for all of you who think this dog should have been saved... you are a total MORON....Some will blame the mom and some wont... bottom line is he is lost and gone forever at the age of two...may he RIP...

    November 5, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Abby

      The Dog was innocent acting as a wild animal. As sad as it is the child was killed, shooting the dog did not do a thing to help the situation when there was 11 other dogs. It is possible to think of the child and the dog's life as a misfortune and that does not make anyone a MORON.

      November 5, 2012 at 9:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      I disagree. The article said that the guards were getting there as fast as they could. But they didn't get there in time. But yes, the mom was stupid to put her child on the railing. And they also didn't have to kill the dog.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:56 pm | Report abuse |
  13. bev

    Always hold your child. (just saying)

    November 5, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Leslie

    Pitts zoo, sue the mother! Sue for actual damages of loss of revenue for the time the zoo was closed due to this, and the loss of the dog. Plus punitive damages for emotional distress to the employees and the reputation of the zoo. Come frivolous lawyers, there has got to be one of you who wants this case.

    November 5, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bill

    Ok now we have:

    1. Fences between you and roller coasters are there to keep you from getting killed (Google Great America Top Gun death)
    2. Fences between you and rivers & cliffs are there to keep you from getting killed (Google Yosemite falls death)
    3. Fences between you and wild animals are there to keep you from getting killed (Its right here)

    Quiz time!

    Fences between you and dangerous things are:
    a) Purely decorative, safe to be ignored at all times.
    b) To keep you alive.

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

      c) a place to stand on to give you a better view of the dangerous things.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      d) ti*tillate you for the ultimate rush

      November 5, 2012 at 7:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vigil

      Here's an actual sign near Vernal Falls in Yosemite park, composed by exasperated park personnel, no doubt:

      “Danger: Waterfall! Stay out of water! Powerful, hidden currents will carry you over the fall. Stay back from slippery rock at the water’s edge. If you go over the fall, you will die.”

      Every day during tourist season in Yosemite, there are tourists who ignore that sign and go past the railing. EVERY DAY.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
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