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. Mark

    This is absolutely horrible. I don't understand how a 3 yo could get into a position where he could fall into the enclosure without someone doing something incredibly stupid or the exhibition deck doesn't contain the proper safeguards.

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

      I've seen lots of stupid behavior in zoos. Teenagers walk on walls. Lean over. Parent ignore the do not pass the fence signs to photograph animals with kids. And on and on and on. try to tell them something and they get irate. too bad the kid died, but where were the adults?

      November 4, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Deb

    Sounds to me like the dogs were not fed properly. Full dogs do not usually attack, unless there is a pup or something.. I would have jumped in to save my child. Unbelievable!

    November 4, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • mel

      U r an idiot!!! The dogs must have been hungry? Really?

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

      You obviously know nothing about wild animals or pack animals for that matter. Your knowledge by observing your poodle does not apply here.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • education please

      Deb, you're pretty dumb. Please Google "African Wild Dogs" and you will see they aren't "dogs" at all. They are top predators and are completely wild and non-domesticatable.

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

      Seriously? It s a pack of WILD dogs at a zoo. Packs of wild dogs hunt, that is what they do.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pragmatist

      I have witnessed feral dog packs attack livestock for no reason other than blood lust. They will kill 20 or 30 chickens in one night and eat almost none of them. African Wild Dogs would probably saw this as food dropping into their enclosure. Both domestic dogs and domestic cats will kill game even when fed regularly.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Daniel

    This is so tragic. All zoos should be better able to respond IMMEDIATELY in such an event.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • IMHO17

      Zoos should have personnel in place to respond quickly, but the only way this child could have been able to fall in was for the parent to have held him in such a way that he was above the enclosure provided to keep him safe. The zoo did not fail here, the parent did and will live with the agony of it. The dogs are wild animals. They behaved as wild animals. That's why they are enclosed. This parent bears the guilt. And as far as jumping in had it been my child? NOTHING could have stopped me. I'd rather die with my child than outlive him.

      November 4, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Me

    I love how some people here are automatically blaming the "mother"!! How do you know the child wasn't at the zoo with the father or another family member?

    November 4, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • cj

      It was actually said the mother was holding the child up for a better view. I'm sure the zoo layout has some flaws but the mother is responsible for this too

      November 4, 2012 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Booseyboo

      The mother IS responsible...not the zoo. The equivalent would be balancing a child on the ledge of a window and the kid falls to his dealth. Should the building owner be responsible for the sheer stupidity of the one the "holding" the kid?

      November 4, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • JWolff24

      The news report has several witness testimonials stating it was the mother. The father was not there at all, according to the actual news report.

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

    Zoos shouldn't have areas where small children can fall into the enclosures.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Booseyboo

      How profound.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • FrankO

      You don't hold kids up to the rail, and you better be jumping in if you're the one who dropped them. Sounds like these dogs were a problem too.

      November 4, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      And gee wiz, Bob... parents shouldn't boost their children up so they can get over the safety and observation barriers put in place.... think about it...

      November 4, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Winston

      Better yet – let's just close down all the zoos. There's just too much risk to people in allowing them to view animals in carefully designed enclosures. It's best to deny the 99.999% of the people the enjoyment of the zoo to protect the .001% who can't or won't observe and follow the rules even when they are posted plainly at every exhibit. Plus – people must leave their homes and in most cases drive to the zoo, further endangering themselves and others by operating a motor vehicle. Sure, millions of people observe and follow operation and traffic rules without incident every day, but why take the chance? Let's just all stay locked inside our homes and watch TV. That way the nanny state can continue to feed us their carefully prepared pabulum until it's time to vote again.

      November 4, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scratchee

      I propose a two-part plan to enact your solution:

      1. All exhibits are completely enclosed in plexiglass.
      2. On the other side of the plexiglass, instead of real animals they just show movies of real animals.

      Now everyone is safe!

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

      Thank you, Winston. Can't say it better myself.

      November 5, 2012 at 2:11 pm | Report abuse |
  6. janemutiny

    Horrible and tragic...also weird. Three of the "This Just In" stories listed on the front page of CNN involve animals eating humans.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. banasy©

    OMG, how horrific!

    November 4, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  8. david breed

    how could they not go in and get that kid. trying to scare the dogs or dart them. pathetic. should of manned up and went in there and got that kid. if they had to shoot those mutts they should of. pathetic.

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

      What would PETA say?

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

      Agreed! I would have been in that enclosure in two seconds, my kid or not. I would have died trying to save him or shield him. How the mother and witnesses who stood there screaming for help can sleep at night is beyond me. Notice the witnesses are quick to be on tv giving an eyewitness account. I wouldn't be able to show my face. That poor child. It was a tragic accident but the only person responsible was the mother and I am a mom.

      November 5, 2012 at 11:51 am | Report abuse |
  9. big stinky

    was it a white kid??

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

      Don't know, can't tell from the story. But I do know he was a better human being than you. What a horrible thing to say. Pathetic. I bet your parents are proud of you....NOT

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

      I was wondering the same thing Big Stinky. I had just googled asking if the kid was white and this page came up! I still don't know.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Kare

    These are wild animals, not house pets. A zoo shouldn't have to enclose these animals up anymore than they have to. When did parental responsibility get thrown out the window??? Yes, it was a horrible accident, but lets not point fingers at the Zoo!

    November 4, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Peter

    Someone doubted another person saying they doubted they would have jumped 14ft into the cage to save their kid, and other said it was sad that they had to kill the dog.

    This is what I have to say. I would have jumped 30ft in if it were the only way, and I could have single handly choked every one of those dogs, if I didn't have my CHG with me, else I would put a bullet in every one of those dogs heads to save my child.

    If it be a animal or a human, my child's life would be worth losing mine, and anyone who would've sat capable, but reluctant to do so, is a cheap parent who just had kids out of act.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • msdlmoore01

      Do you own a cape to go with your superhero grandiose statements?

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

      You do know that packs of wild dogs routinely kill animals bigger and stronger than you, right?

      November 5, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Blurb

    First of all, the dogs are not at fault at all for this. It is even sad that one dog was killed. The dogs did not make the choice to be in this situation either. The child could not have gotten over the fence by himself, adult must have done something wrong here.....When I go shopping, I see every time many kids completely out of control and completely ignorant parents...... Sad accident, but it is most probably to blame on the person who is supposed to monitor the child.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      For the dear love of God...a child has died and this is where you are mentally? Lord help us all!

      November 4, 2012 at 8:38 pm | Report abuse |
  13. BlackDynamite

    Only the strong survive.....

    November 4, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Prinzy010

    I'm sorry for the mother and the zoo. Sometimes in life there are just accidents.

    November 4, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • msdlmoore01

      Wow, you have no opion ony to offer that "sometimes things just happen?" Milktoast

      November 4, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Prinzy010

      Msdlmoore01. My opinion is that accidents happen. It's easy to blame anyone and everyone. Ask your parents.

      November 4, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. chazzz

    If the odds of this happening were, let's say one in a million, and a few million folks passed thru this exhiibit over a period of time, what would that be?...what could go wrong, might go wrong?

    November 4, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
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