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.

Post by:
Filed under: Animals • Pennsylvania • U.S.
soundoff (1,798 Responses)
  1. Bev McMullan

    Where were the parents? How did a 3 year old child fall over the observation deck as I'm sure that the zoo had proper railings around the exhibit? Now a child is dead. Very sad.

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

      The mother lifted her child up over the rails and let him stand on top of the wall. He lost balance and fell in.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dennis

    Just what were the stupid parents doing???????????????? Now the animals will pay for their gross carelessness !

    November 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sam

    Wow, an observation deck above the dogs. How Insane.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • JB

      *sigh* for those of you claiming that an observation deck above a predator exhibit is insane, try to do a little critical thinking about what is actually being described. The deck is not literally hovering directly of the exhibit like a bridge. It is a roofed platform from which you look down at the dogs because their enclosure is several feet below the ground level of the rest of the park. This is how most predator exhibits are nowadays (i.e. basically deep pits) so that the animals can't jump up and escape.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Just because that is how it is done frequently now, does not mean it is rational. But your excuses for this incompetent zoo operator shows that rationality isn't important to you.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • JB

      Who are you Reality? The mother or one of her friends trying to get her off the hook? You clearly demonstrated that you don't know what you're even talking about when you claimed earlier that most child staircase are higher than four feet, when in truth most are just barely two feet or more.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Becca

    I am thinking too there is much more to the story! I can remember going to that zoo as a child and there was nothing at all unsafe about it. There were signs and rules all over. If it said DO NOT FEED THE ANIMALS then you did not feed the animals. Or if it said DO NOT CLIMB OR STAY AWAY FROM THE EDGE then you stayed away. There are signs all over that zoo. And to bee there for all of these years the zoo does not endanger lives. Only way a person can get hurt really is DO NOT OBEY the rules or signs of the zoo.Not sure if we really would know what has happened but really for an accident to happen to a young child like this just had to be an adults problem for not watching out for the child or not obeying the rules for this child.
    I do so much feel for these parents as the loss of a child is one of the wost any parent could not dream of. But I do write the truth here and I hope parents will learn from this and watch your child very closely.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Santy

    How could no one jump in? Just stare as a little child is mauled? Unbelievable.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rockymcgilicutty

      I agree,I have two grandchildren.If I would have been there I would have died before I let the dogs get to that child.I will never understand how people could watch and not defend ANY child.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      You do realize these are wild dogs right?? Anyone jumping in is going to get mauled as well. Being a hero and being smart are two different things.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Santy

      I have a much better chance of surviving a mauling than a baby. I'd take that chance.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      Well if the Veternarian Department had to shoot darts to try and scare them, I'm pretty sure you wouldn't survive. So then you have 2 bodies instead of 1. I respect your heroism, but you have to use your head. That's what all of those witnesses did. It's a tragedy that should have been avoided. The parents have to live with this the rest of their lives. That's a pretty steep punishment.

      November 5, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. SJ

    I have been appalled at some of the posts here. Where is our compassion, people??? We don't need to blame anyone or anything. The parents will live with the sights and sounds for the rest of their lives. Jesus says "Judge not that ye be not judged." Lets rather pray for the people involved. Yes it was a horrific tragedy but we won't help by pointing fingers. People say on here that they would've jumped in to save their child. I would like to say that that's what I would do also, but we are each human beings and our nature is to cringe from being hurt- in reality we don't know what we would have done in that situation. Let's not point fingers or lift ourselves up. My prayers to those involved. May God be near you.

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

      Leave Jesus out of it. If he was going to help, he would have helped the 3 yr old, while he was being torn to pieces by a pack of dogs.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Satan

      Clearly God's will was to have dogs maim this child.

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

      This is exactly the time to blame whoever is responsible!!! Every time a tragedy happens and someone dies, there is always someone to blame. I don't know if the parents put the boy up on the railing – I was not there. If that is indeed what happened, then yes, they are to blame. In this country it's never the right time, until the next tragedy, and the next one again! This is why no one ever learns anything, because it's never the right time. Grow up people, and take responsibility for your actions, and for god's sake, have COMMON SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!

      November 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Sherri

    Can someone give us the link to the Pittsburgh area paper so we can see what really happened?

    November 4, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      Google the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. They tell the story that CNN refuses to report. Their story makes all the twits on here attacking the parents look as ignorant as the zoo officials who had nothing but a 4 foot fence separating people from a 14 foot fall into a pit with animals that will kill out of a lack of intelligence and cogent thinking.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Cindy

    This happened because the parent put the child in danger putting him on top of a rail, ledge, etc., I'm surprised the fall didn't alone kill him. These animals just did what came normal to them, not fare I know but, I hope that none of the dogs are put to sleep because of this parents BAD MISTAKE.

    I assure you that now the zoo will have to take extra measures for idiot people to not permitting people to fall into pits, I wonder if the parent will try sue the zoo ? Maybe if I drive into on coming traffic and I crash, I can sue the hell out of the car makers of all the cars that hit me ???

    We gotta make money out of our own mistakes, right ? This is what we are teaching society to do now a day's ..... sad.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • JWolff24

      It is possible that the fall did kill him. Last I read, they aren't sure yet.

      November 4, 2012 at 9:17 pm | Report abuse |
  9. melissa

    If the baby fell 14 feet I'll bet he was already dead. I pity the poor mother. She will never get over this.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:33 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Pamela jean Donahue

    There is no reason to shoot the innocent dog-the very stupid parent who caused this to happen should be shot instead.

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

      Donnie, that might well be the Best thing that ever happens to the siblings.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      Shame on your for being such a horrible person

      November 5, 2012 at 6:59 am | Report abuse |
  11. Jenny

    I work in a zoo. Every day, I see parents either holding their children over barriers to get them closer to the animals, or allowing their children to scramble up barriers in an unsafe way. This observation – coupled with the fact that the first wooden barrier at Pittsburgh is 4-feet high – tells me that mom let her kid get in an unsafe position. Tragic but not unexpected.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Reality99

      A four foot fence. Lower than a typical child barrier on a stairway. This incompetent zoo needs to be shut down immediately.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenny

      @Reality99 You do understand that four feet tall means that the average woman only stands a foot and a half taller than the barrier? That it would definitely prevent and protect the average three-year-old? It's much taller than baby gates; I don't know where on earth you're getting your comparison from.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      If a woman was holding the child standing on top of that railing she would have no way to catch them if they fell. They would be top heavy and her strength would be below the fence.

      I have also never seen a 4' baby gate.

      November 4, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tom Hartman

    Don't know what happened yet. Many zoos have been sued successfully over not having proper protection against this happening...need more info.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:40 pm | Report abuse |
  13. nepawoods

    A few adults couldn't jump in to save the child?

    November 4, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • drinker75

      Unless one of the adults were super human, a 14 foot drop would have injured them and wouldn't have helped the situation.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Lauren

    The mother was holding the boy up at the edge. Purely her fault.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  15. freshnewblog

    Careless parents and a zoo in need of a fence.

    November 4, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • saddened

      There is a five foot railing covered in wire mesh The mother was holding the child up over the top of the railing when the child pitched forward. I guess they need a 6-7 foot fence since people don't understand the importance of fences.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • New York

      Saddened, what we seem in most need of is an IQ test before allowing people to breed.

      November 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm | Report abuse |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45