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. Some Dude in NC

    Gosh. So much negativity towards this poor family that has lost their child. Did you all notice that there was no mention in this story about how the child fell? Yet so many people are ready to judge the grieving mother based on zero information and your own worst case assumption about what happened.

    In the end, none of us have to live with the results of this tragedy and we should all have sympathy for those people and sure, the dog that had to be put down. Seriously. There is no right or wrong party here. There is only loss and tragedy.

    November 6, 2012 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
  2. Joy

    The parents (or caregiver at the time) should have watched the child more closely but kids can get away from an adult at the blink of an eye so lets not be too judgemental until all the facts are on the table.

    November 6, 2012 at 7:47 am | Report abuse |
  3. CommonSense

    What horrible neglectful parents. Poor child. This is an exhibit of imprisoned wild animals, not Disneyland.

    November 6, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  4. Barnacleguy

    The mom was stupid, and for that stupidity her 3 yr old (and an innocent dog) had to die. I feel sadness for her. But that sadness will turn to pure hatred at her once a lawsuit against the zoo is filed. This legal system of ours needs changing: judges have GOT to start taking into account that people are be responsible for their own actions, whether those actions are a result of stupidity, carelessness, clumsiness, whatever! Otherwise our culture as we know it will come to an end because nobody can afford to insure against the idiocy of humans.

    November 6, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
  5. boots


    November 6, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • zim

      Right. I would shoot all 5000 dogs of these species in a flash if I knew there was the slightest change of saving the baby.
      Children >>>>>>> all animals on earth

      November 6, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Comment Hater

    I hate commenters...all trash

    November 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. JenniferSmith

    Give Me A Break! I am sorry that you are all such perfect parents. My heart aches for the parents that lost their child. You never know what can happen, in a seconds time. And no one has to walk in their shoes. They are GRIEVING. Show some compassion.

    November 6, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Pittsburgher

    I would have gladly jumped in after the kid whether it was my kid or not. The poor child! 🙁

    November 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. C. Leith Kelley

    I feel bad for the baby, the father, the dog, the zoo, and the police who have to figure out what happened and whether charges should be filed. I need to know more before I feel sorry for the mother. Reminds me of the Michael Jackson debacle, but at least he held on...

    November 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrea

      There's something I haven't seen mentioned here... It doesn't say someone jumped in there after the boy. If i had lost my mind and wasn't clinging to my son around a 14 foot drop and he fell into a pit full of extremely dangerous dogs.. it wouldn't take a second before i was hurling myself down into the pit with him. I'd die trying to save my child or die with him.

      November 6, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Drew

      What Andrea said. I'm not even a parent but I am an uncle, and I don't have any idea how this mother can live with herself.

      November 6, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • littlebooglies

      There were people who tried to jump in but were restrained for good reason. The zookeepers had the training to break up an almost impenetrable circle of wild dogs, but the child was dead within minutes anyway. These dogs attack systematically and kill quickly in a synchronized fashion, not biting people randomly.

      November 6, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      she tried to jump in the people held her back

      November 7, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
  10. emma cee

    Parents need to educate their children about how to act around ALL animals; plain and simple. This is a tragic case, completely. I can't tell you how many times parents have encouraged their kids to touch my dog, without even asking me first. I've had to get quite confrontational with some parents, and of course, I'm "telling them how to raise their kid". My dog is gentle, but she is still a dog and something could happen, because she still has instincts. I turn by back for a second, and my cousin's stupid kids are pulling on my dogs ears and she's trying to get away. Of course, I'm the one who is out of line for telling them to stop. As a dog owner, I have to be on the look out for stupid parents. And zoos get a bad rep because parents aren't adhering to the rules.

    November 6, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ffc

      This is the dumbest comment of all. The boy was 2. he fell into a pit and was attacked. It has nothing to do with teaching a 2 year old about dogs. You are a heartless fool

      November 10, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • kjm

      Your comment just sounds stupid. This is a different incident than a kid petting a dog.

      November 29, 2012 at 12:02 am | Report abuse |
  11. Richard

    African painted dogs...? They are called African Wild Dogs (Lycaon pictus) in their region of origin.
    Ruthless pack hunters, they are most effective garbage disposal contractors of the African Savannah.

    November 6, 2012 at 4:46 pm | Report abuse |
  12. jessica

    Horrible story and i feel dev for the family but those animals are wild animals and they are the ultimate scavengers. Hello- use safety protection at the Zoo or just don't go there. The animals are stuck there they have nowhere else to go. Sad for all involved.

    November 6, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Dblock

    The mother was suppose to protect her child when it had no means to protect itself. She made the choices that led to her child's death she should be charged with a crime. I think that every living thing should have a chance to live its life. Just because we as humans have the power to destroy everything and anything doesn't mean we need to. The way we exploit other mammals and the rest of earths species is just sad not to mention we will reach a breaking point. Rip to the dog who was shot for no reason.

    November 7, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      she did not set him on the railing she tried to jump in the people stopped her

      November 7, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      really shot for no reason HE WAS MAULING A BABY!!!!!!!!!!

      November 7, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      I'm with you on this Dblock. When my kids were young I loved to take them to the Grand Canyon and zoo's or what ever, but I always looked out for the safety factor. Always stayed with them and got them cranky at me with all the, No don't stand to close, No don't try to climb the fence for a better view. Sad story but people have to watch thier kids better. I don't see how she will find the strenth to live

      November 8, 2012 at 2:52 am | Report abuse |
    • Fergus Mason

      "she did not set him on the railing"

      Wrong. That's EXACTLY what she did. Criminal negligence and she should be prosecuted robustly.

      November 8, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Fergus Mason

      "really shot for no reason HE WAS MAULING A BABY!!!!!!!!!!"

      No, it was eating a toddler that was already dead. Killing the dog didn't help the child in any way. To say that it was shot for no reason is a perfectly fair comment.

      November 8, 2012 at 9:46 am | Report abuse |
    • sympathy

      i have listened to the witnesses no she did not. belive what you may. it is sad for me to hear how judgemental peopl are when having only the facts the news reports. And for all the people who say they watch their children every minute were are you?
      Today while in toys r' us...buying a truck for the funeral in lieu of flowers...all toys are being donated for children without for x-mas I loked around and did not see one mother holding the chidrens hands. Ans those in carts sat as their mothers looked at the toys their child could have fallen out. SO WHERE ARE ALL THESE MOTHERS WHO NEVER LET GO OF THEIR CHILDRENS HAND..And as far as the dog GOD FORGIVE YOU that you think all those on lookers should have been exposed to that dog who would not let go of the boy continue knawning on him SHAME!!!!!

      November 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mickey

      Sorry but why have people/parents become so STUPID. People don't even think of what could happen and now a 2 year old has suffered a horrible death. And it is the zoo keepers fault for not getting there sooner. Again sorry but I hope the idiot mother at least has the brains to suffer her loss.

      November 9, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  14. jasmine

    Too many things went wrong here. Such a tragedy. No human should have had the capability of entering the enclosure either by accident or jumping into for starters. I am sure now that will change. The mother should have had tighter reins on a 3 yr old in a wild zoo....I mean wow! However I am realistic to the fact you dont want to put a leash on your child......its such a tragedy this mother will unfortunately be living the rest of her days remembering and questioning what could have been different or laying blame on herself. That in itself is pure misery folks I would not wish upon anyone.

    November 8, 2012 at 5:40 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ann

    Lighten up folks. Mistakes and misjudgements may have been made, but there is not one parent anywhere that hasn't made, if only for a moment, a slight miscalculation or been distracted for an instant or just couldn't forsee all the possible consequences for the next second in time. We are all alive to write comments because we are the lucky ones to which those fleeting possibilities did not occur. Do our own mothers and fathers deserve to be hailed as saints for being lucky and this poor mother condemned because her instant was the one that proved the exception?

    November 9, 2012 at 4:21 pm | Report abuse |
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