November 5th, 2012
02:50 PM ET

Zoo: No time to save child mauled by African painted dogs

It happened in seconds. A 2-year-old boy slipped over a railing, bounced into a safety net, bounced again, and tumbled into an exhibit of African painted dogs, which mauled him to death.

The heartbreaking scenario came to light Monday as the Pittsburgh Zoo released details of the child's death Sunday.

If someone had jumped in to save him, would it have helped? "In my professional opinion, no," zoo President Barbara Baker, a veterinarian, said at a news conference today. "There were 11 dogs in the exhibit."

Although there were zoo officials within feet of the exhibit, and others rushed to the scene, it was too late – it was clear the child was dead, Baker said. "There was no reason to send our staff into harm's way" at that point, she said.

An emergency weapons team and the police arrived. The dogs were moved to another area and are now quarantined. But one dog refused to leave. The police needed to access the scene so, with the zoo's approval, two officers opened fire, killing the remaining dog.

The medical examiner found that the little boy did not die from the fall, Baker said.

Railings throughout the zoo are designed to make it difficult to place children on them, Baker said. They're at a 45-degree angle so that if a child is placed on one and falls, he or she would hopefully fall backward, away from the animal enclosure, she said.

Pittsburgh police say the child was with his 34-year-old mother when he fell from the top of a platform railing and "was immediately attacked by eleven dogs inside the pen."

"Homicide investigators have interviewed several witnesses and zoo personnel, and the investigation is ongoing," police said in a written statement.

Asked whether the zoo takes responsibility for not creating a fail-proof system, Baker responded, "We do everything we possibly can," and "we evaluate it every single day." There is "no such thing as a fail-proof exhibit," she said.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums will require a report from the zoo, and if it deems necessary, will send an investigative team, Baker said.

All the dogs had physicals in September, which include rabies shots, she said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture inspected the zoo in September and found no deficiencies, she said. The agency, by law, will return for a follow-up inspection.

Baker did not say whether or how procedures may change as a result of the accident. The zoo has never faced this kind of tragedy, she said.

The zoo will reopen tomorrow, but the African painted dogs exhibit is closed until further notice.

The child has not been identified, and his family has made no public statement.

See our story from yesterday here.

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Filed under: Animals • Dogs • Pennsylvania • U.S.
soundoff (964 Responses)
  1. Mack

    The railing is fine. The mother messed up and the zoo officials, police, and the writer of this article are too afraid to say it was actually her fault. I doubt she will ever admit it. Don't be surprised if you see her file a lawsuit against the zoo later.

    November 6, 2012 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
    • JenniferUCD

      yep. The zoo did what it could with a safety net and an angled edge on the top of the fence. The mom was the one that put him up there. If anything the city should sue her for negligence.

      November 6, 2012 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
    • GMC123

      Totally the mother's fault. What in the world was she thinking?

      November 6, 2012 at 6:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. johny_boy

    I am sad 🙁 on killing of innocent boy, RIP,. we should stop killing children every where in the world. there are many 2-3 year babies are dying every day by US drones, thats sad too..

    November 6, 2012 at 4:36 am | Report abuse |
  3. LongLifeEating

    Sad story..

    November 6, 2012 at 4:39 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ms.Sonja

    Rest In Peace "Sweet Baby" sorry for ur loss mother/family...There is but one judge, whom we will "all" be judged one day, so have some compassion for this family! We are to show love and kindness for all humanity no matter the situation, and as sad as it is, this is one.. No more suffering little one, R.I.P. sweet sweet baby. "CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?"

    November 6, 2012 at 5:13 am | Report abuse |
  5. 6185jp

    This mother should be in jail for neglect and possibly murder. How can a two old child climb a fence angled at a 45° backward angle? He would be climbing upside down until he got over the top of the fence.

    November 6, 2012 at 5:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. alan fischer

    Use a gun

    November 6, 2012 at 5:42 am | Report abuse |
  7. Marissa

    It was from my understanding, from reading other articles, that the mother placed the child on the railing in order for him to get a better look at the exhibit. Which makes her a bloody idiot! She may have very well thrown the little boy in enclosure, her ignorance has cost her child his life and that is something she is going to have to live with for the rest of hers.

    November 6, 2012 at 5:46 am | Report abuse |
  8. Turtleguy

    The mother should be arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide at the least. There really needs to be a minimum intelligence requirement to reproduce.

    November 6, 2012 at 5:57 am | Report abuse |
  9. hoofleau

    This is so tragic. Why wasn't the mother more attentive? C'mon...a 2 year old? This is insane !

    November 6, 2012 at 6:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. Pete

    Your all a bunch of idiots wth your insensitive comments. No wonder the world is going to hell.

    November 6, 2012 at 6:11 am | Report abuse |
  11. LBF

    All of these damn idiots arguing about guns and politics! This the story about a child's death and his stupid, irresponsible mother! She should've known better.

    November 6, 2012 at 6:14 am | Report abuse |
  12. crabman

    sorry for the loss of the child but the mother is to blame for this --could the zoo have had a better safety net or a higher rail ? maybe but the child did not belong standing on the top of the fence--this child was put there by the mother-GOOD JOB MOM

    November 6, 2012 at 6:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Zoo Vet

    Most asinine statement I've seen all week: "All the dogs had physicals in September, which include rabies shots, she said."

    November 6, 2012 at 6:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Nobody jumped down to help?


      November 6, 2012 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
  14. Hm!

    This women fed her child to the dogs and that is a crime! She is a cold bloody killer! The zoo should not be taking the heat on this due to how they were not the ones putting the child in danger! It was the mom! This crazy women should be locked up! Feed her to the dogs!

    November 6, 2012 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Michele

      For the ones who are making nasty comments, what would you do if this was YOU? How would you be able to handle day to day tasks after this happened to you? I know what it's like to lose a child s shame on you! For the idiot who said she fed her child to the dogs, well, your just an idiot! It's not like this childs mother took him to the zoo with the intent to harm you may as well give up and say something worth all of us hearing too, if not, your wasting your breath and precious time to be stupid elsewhere!

      November 6, 2012 at 6:55 am | Report abuse |
    • IvyLeagueMamaLlama

      Oh, for god's sake, you don't have any basis for making these accusations!

      November 6, 2012 at 7:16 am | Report abuse |
    • JB

      Michelle, most of us would never think to put children in harm's way as this woman has done. For those of you that act in this reckless manner, or condone the actions of those that do, you should never breed.

      November 6, 2012 at 7:25 am | Report abuse |
  15. shayblanch

    Wow!!! Some of the comments.

    November 6, 2012 at 6:51 am | Report abuse |
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