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. Fiona

    Parents holding the child over the railing for a better view, i take it? That's how the kid who fell into a gorilla pen "just happened" to fall (in that case a beneficent gorilla carried the child to safety...gorillas being superior to humans in so many ways). I'm so sad for this child, but also sad for the caged animals that had to suffer - and die - because people are so d*%#ned stu pid.

    Btw, they are African Wild Dogs, not Painted Dogs.

    November 4, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • MiKE

      Actually "painted dogs" and "wild dogs" are both correct names for this particular species.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
  2. j2011

    This is horrible. I have to believe there is more to the story then he simply fell? Who ever built this place must have designed it to be reasonably safe otherwise this would have happened years ago. Perhaps a parent or sibling put him on a barrier to improve his view and he lost his footing?

    November 4, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      I suspect you are correct. That's the best way for a 3-year-old to get over a 4-foot fence. It sounds like a tragic accident that could have been averted by more attentive parents.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pittsburgh zoo member

      Yes, it has been reported here in Pittsburgh that the mother was holding the child up at the top of the fence. I attend that zoo often with my two kids and that enclosure is, in my opinion, extremely safe for children to be around, as long as the children are not boosted up above the fence line. There is also a completed-enlcosed platform with floor to top windows on all three sides that is excellent for viewing the dogs no matter where they are in their enclosure, so this is a particularly senseless and tragic death.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sky King

    What a tragedy!

    November 4, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. GSalazar

    what a horrible way to die for anyone, but especially a child! It breaks my heart to think of the pain and terror this lil boy must have went thru, forget those dogs I would have killed them all, so what they are almost extinct, so what if they were "acting naturally" I couldnt have just stood there as the baby got mauled to death... this is sooo sad

    November 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angi

      That is the most stupid comment I have read in a long time. You say they should have killed all the dogs??? These are WILD dogs. They never asked to be put in a cage. If someone comes into my house, I am going to defend it and fight if I must too. They were using their animal instinct and as sad as I feel for the family and the little boy, how does a 3 year old just "fall" into an exhibit. Parents are meant to be looking after and supervising their children.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      Instead of blaming wild dogs for acting like wild dogs even while confined in a pen, why not blame the parent who didn't keep his/her child safe? Why should the rest of the world pay the price for human stupidity?

      November 4, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      To the animal activist commenting to this post -it doesn't matter how it happened, it was an accident and the child should have come first. You need to have your heads examined!

      November 5, 2012 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Moron! How stupid can a parent be??? NOT the animals fault! Duh!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Reality99

    4 foot fence = prosecute the zoo operators immediately. Exterminate the dogs. Sterilize those who defend this zoo and attack the child and the parents, so that the level of intelligence and humanity in the world can rise in future generations.

    November 4, 2012 at 4:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • KET

      FOURTEEN foot observation deck. Reading comprehension aside (ironic from someone talking about levels of intelligence), people go to zoos to see animals that are inherently dangerous. If we were talking about these painted dogs getting OUT of their enclosure, that would be one thing. But this was HUMAN error, not any fault of those dogs. Heartbreaking that a child died for someone's negligence or carelessness.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gem

      The zoo should be prosecuted, but why bother putting down the dogs? They're not domesticated; they're wired to attack.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater39

      Reality, have you ever considered taking a reading comprehension course? FOURTEEN foot fence. As for extermination, I vote for extermination of stupid people like you....

      November 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • SusieG

      You really need to change your name from Reality99 because absolutely NOTHING you sat is rooted in reality AT ALL!

      November 4, 2012 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Yup! Starting with sterilizing you! I agree with Angi!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Me

      Boater39 is right on!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:33 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Steve Ocean

    Most exhibits i've been to at zoos have at least two levels of separation from the more dangerous animals. I'm trying to imagine how just by holding a toddler up, them simply falling forward into an exhibit this dangerous. Even that should be a per-planned scenario in the exhibit design just for this reason. I gotta think the zoo is partially at fault because they should build their exhibits to protect all people all the way down to the lowest common denominator of human intelligence and stupidity.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      I truly think people feel safe at the zoo too -they feel that they are being protected and that there is no chance of harm. It is not like going into the ocean...

      November 5, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Me

    Again, humans were stupid and the animal(s) paid the price.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Saguaro

      Yup! Happens far too often! Humans are not known to be overly smart!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:36 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Vicki

    I don't get why everyone keeps blaming the parents, the dogs, whoever for this. Honestly to me this whining and blaming and complaining about who's fault it was is not going to change that a tragic thing happened and that this poor child is dead. I am sure the family did not plan "Oh im going to go to the zoo and my child is going to get eaten!" If they couldve seen that in the future im sure they wouldnt have gone or done something better to prevent the child from falling over. I dont know how the child fell over, we still don't truly know all the facts yet. And I really dont understand why people are feeling sorry for the animals...honestly people act like animals are more important than a human life. NO, they are not. My prayers go out to the family affected by this and anyone else.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      The animals did not ask to be put on display in a zoo did they? It is not their fault, its people like you that don't get it.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      These dogs are far more endangered than humans, Vicki, and they have just as much right to survive as we do. In fact, those dogs, and far too many other animals, are endangered BECAUSE humans are breeding so rapidly and selfishly that natural habitat is being destroyed.

      I'm sorry a child died, but had a parent or adult, or even a concerned sibling been holding his hand, making sure that he was safe and careful, this would not have happened. I get that kids are fast and sneaky, but when you take your child out of his or her familiar environment, you need to be especially vigilant. That is the job of the parent. If you can't be a responsible parent, don't have children.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Becca

      My prayers go out to the family too. But there are rules posted at that zoo. And so many do's and Don'ts posted. I have no Idea if you have ever been at that zoo before but to me it soulds like you have not. And Yes I can understand why people feel sorry for tha animals too. And most of all the child for being killed in such a cruel way. But the child had to be put in harms way by whom ever took the child there and did not obey the rules. THERE ARE RULES POSTED AND WARNING"S ALL OVER THAT ZOO!!!! I would think they have camera's all over this zoo so we will find out real soon after a investigation is done. But I can say animals are just as important as a child,. Anything that lives and breathes is as important as any human too. Life is life!

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

      Thank you for being the most loving, logical person on this board...folks on here are making me sick with their blame and lack of compassion for this horrible tragedy.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:53 am | Report abuse |
    • Saguaro

      Yes, Vicky, there IS a Santa Claus! Tallulah13 you ROCK!

      November 5, 2012 at 11:41 pm | Report abuse |
  9. zap15

    This is outrageous for people not to attend to 3 year olds properly. If it were some teens who fell in or suicidal adult it would be funny and all would applaud that the zoo is so special and would not take down the animal.

    The Pittsburgh Zoo is improperly managed and should been held acountable.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      I don't get your message. Is the Pittsburgh Zoo the parent of this child? After all, the parent is the party ultimately responsible fore the safety of their children.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Ana

    That what happens when you take wild animals out of their natural habitat and breed them out of their environment in zoos. Animals do not belong in captivity. When will human brains understant that?

    November 4, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Leave it to the animal freaks like Ana to care more about some mutts than an innocent child.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Atta Girl

    Zoo's should just have solid barriers. Plexy glass, chain link, etc. Having a guard rail is an invitation for an accident. Seems like when these types of accidents happen it's that a child is always "falling into" an enclosure that requires even greater effort to get into and help. Zoo's cater to children & families and should be better designed with them in mind. Personally i'd jump in after my child no matter what and start kicking the crap out of animals. To stand there and watch them be killed is lame. I'd rather die with them.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      That's swell. Personally, I'd hold on to my toddler's hand or put him/her on a leash so that I always had some kind of contact. I would pay attention to my child, not my cell phone, not my friends, because the best way to keep your child safe is to make sure he or she is never in danger. I certainly wouldn't insist other people to do my job for me.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Report abuse |
  12. TheVocalAtheist

    Zoos should be abolished.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boater39

      So should vocal atheists....

      November 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • lisa wrye

      I think that there needs to be better security around these areas of viewing. There should be no possible way for anyone to ever get hurt in any way if it were better proofed. The zoo is responsible for the safety of anyone on the property. No one wants their child to die this way. No parent expects their child to die this way. Shame on the people who are inconsiderate to the family who has lost their child. It is not their fault.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist


      It's not going to happen, get over it.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • more common sense than you

      seriously Lisa, it is the zoo's fault the mother lifted the child over the SAFETY railing that the zoo put in place after said zoo said not to climb fences and stay off the railings, too? Not the mom's fault in the least...maybe your mother should dangle you over a fence with a 14ft drop if it is perfectly ok for a mother to do so since she has no accountability for her actions!

      November 5, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sniify Groucho

    I think there are about 4,990 too many of these "endangered species" left. Open season on African Painted Dogs!!

    November 4, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      I would bet my last penny that you have a pretty low IQ.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Angi

      Open season on anyone calling themselves SNIIFY GROUCHO. Idiot! These African Wild Dogs lives are worth more than yours...

      November 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • BPollutin

      Where do I get my Permit for Open Season on Sniify Groucho?

      November 4, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Billbo

    It's sad that the boy died and its sad that they are probably going to execute the animals that killed the boy, when its not the animals' fault. Of course wild animals are going to kill given the opportunity after being caged up against their will. Stupid that we condemn animals to death. So dumb, lol,...humans...I am I right?

    November 4, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • TheVocalAtheist

      Yes, of course, its a tragic event for all involved. Two innocent lives were taken for the sake of the zoo run by humans. It doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • JWolff24

      I haven't read anything that says the dogs will be killed. I'd rather the stupid parent be shot.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:11 pm | Report abuse |
  15. cutedog2

    Had that been my kid, I would have jumped in after him and attempted to put myself between him and harm's way. No mention of the care-givers in the article. I wonder what is up with that.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Matt

      I agree..I would have been torn limb from limb trying to cover my child. I've honestly never been okay with Zoo's. Even as a kid, I always wondered why people caged wild animals to be looked at. This may be extreme, but I think that all zoo's should be shut down for good. It's cruel for animals, and unsafe for humans. Save up your money and travel if you want to see the real thing.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joey

      There is no mention of them because they are obviously idiots. Sorry.. sympathies aside.. when you're visiting a zoo with a 3 year old you simply CANNOT risk dropping him into a pit of wild dogs. As for putting yourself between them and your child that is admirable but let's concentrate on being careful to NOT drop your kid into a pit of wild dogs in the first place. Nothing else is worth contemplating. I'm sorry for the kid.. and the parents... and the dog that got shot. People lead such coddled, sheltered lives that they forget that there are things can cannot be allowed to occur.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Alina77

      Pittsburgh media said the same thing...

      November 4, 2012 at 5:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • tallulah13

      Hey "Reality" I've read many reports and none of them say much more than this. You must have special inside information. Please provide a link so that we can all be enlightened,

      November 4, 2012 at 5:49 pm | Report abuse |
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