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. bgstroud

    Another dumb animal like you, on the loose

    November 5, 2012 at 5:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake parke

      all the commets are so dumb

      November 6, 2012 at 12:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Name*tony

    Wow, Kyle..

    November 5, 2012 at 5:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. jubatus

    The zoo did not place the child on the railing, the parent did. End of story.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      Yes, you are correct. It is not the zoo's fault.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Unknown

    @Kyle: You're the most ignorant and stupid person in the planet that comes out with such comments. The boy didn't know anything or asked to sit there.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Lee

    Something seems fishy to me... How high was that rail?

    November 5, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dmitriy

    What an ignorant idiot you are, Kyle! A 2-year-old cannot make a correct judgement in such situations, it is biologically impossible. All blame is on his mother, and still it is cruel to say she deserved it.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • elizabeth

      Reality can be very cruel to the deliberately ignorant and willfully stupid. I would bet that if any responsible person told her to take the child off the railing (and I bet it's posted) she would have attacked like a wild dog on crack.

      November 7, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Oldwhiteman

    The dogs did what dogs do and the kid did what kids do. The zoo and the adults bear the responsibility. If my kid fell in I would have been in there with him 11 dogs or not.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ling Cho

      Me too but then I wouldn't take a child to the zoo anyhow. Too many germs. They can see all that stuff on the big screen TV and be safe.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • JT

      I would have been in there with my child as well. Of course, mine would NOT have been put on the railing.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darryl

      Absolutely. Your child falls into a pit of wild dogs for any reason, you jump in too, no matter how high and what's below.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • moody2

      I understand the sentiment but then there would have been two deaths instead of one. You would not have stood a chance against them and the child would still be dead.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mary Kaye Waterson

      The zoo bears no responsibility. They didn't put the child on the rail, the mother did that. This is the mother's fault, pure and simple. No one who thinks ahead and considers possible consequences would ever sit a two year old child on a rail at a zoo exhibit. How in the world is it the zoo's fault that the mother wasn't thinking?

      November 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • eagles_fan

      The zoo is not responsible for the behavior of the mother. She was the one who put the child on top of the railing.

      November 6, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. CY Young

    I would like 10 minutes with you so I could beat the fate into you.. Your an idiot

    November 5, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Jenny L

    A baby died!!! Some of these comments are crazy! This mother will have to live with what she did for the rest of her life. No, she shouldn't have put him on the railing but she will have to think about that mistake everyday. Bless the whole family during this terrible time. I am undecided about the dogs. On one hand, the dogs were doing what came natural, on the other, I want to scream that this is a BABY and damned the dogs. I would never ever say "shoot the dogs", unless this baby could have been saved. Please have more compassion for the family during this horrible time, and may God Bless them.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • GHG

      My sympathy will extend to the family until the (absolutely inevitable) second they file that lawsuit. You think they won't? Oh look! Pigs are flying!

      November 5, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenny L

      @GHG. I understand what you are saying. I don't have to agree but I appreciate your comment. She may sue and that will have to be something to think about.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • jdf

      Do you understand the concept of Trolling? People intentionally 'troll' to get people like you stirred up, by intentionally posting inflammatory posts. Pay no attention to the troll.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Alisa T

    Kyle: You are a heartless imbecile who clearly knows nothing about children, how vulnerable they are and how in need of their parents to take care of them and look out for them , especially young children like this sweet angel. Please do not ever have children, you would be a HORRIBLE father.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Shirley Ganske

    Thank God the dogs had their rabies shots. Really CNN that's not really important when the child is dead from having his throat ripped open. Says the vet: there were 11 dogs in there. 11 dangerous animals who operate with pack mentality shouldn't be in one pen for the safety of everyone, dogs, zoo keepers and patrons. To the mom, I'm very sorry for your tragic loss.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • moody2

      They were all in the pit together because that is the way they live. Most zoos will build to accomodate a wild animals natural life patterns. This is the least we can do for keeping them locked in cages and pens. The dogs were nt at fault for doing what their species does. The zoo was not at fault. They took necessary precautions. Unfortunately the mother will have to live with knowing her child died because of her.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenny L

      I agree with you Shirley.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • JackieR

      They shouldn't be in there together?? Then where shoul they be?? In their own condos? This is a ZOO, with dangerous WILD animals in as close to their natural setting as they can get for them. I'm not really understanding why bledding hearts like you and Jenny L don't understand that the MOTHER is to blame. SHE PUT the baby on the rail. I can't think of anyhting more stupid. And no..I would NEVER EVER do that. EEEEVER. So she lost a child then give her all the sympathy and let's find other reasons other than what and who's really to blame?

      November 6, 2012 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
    • tba

      Rabies makes animals VERY inclined to attack anything. The zoo is saying the dogs had their rabies shots to prove that they are doing everything to keep their animals in healthy, normal condition, and not PRONE to attack. In other words, these dogs were doing what was natural. A squalling creature fell into THEIR home. How are they to know a weak, injured and crying HUMAN creature is any different from another weak, injured crying ANY OTHER animal??

      November 6, 2012 at 1:21 pm | Report abuse |
  12. AroobaDuka

    I wou'dve jumped in and karate chopped all those fools!! Haya!

    November 5, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mary Kaye Waterson

    I hate to add to a mother's pain and suffering but she was out of her mind to set that child on the rail. I have two kids, I've taken them to the zoo a million times and lifted them up to see the animals so many times. Never, ever, ever would I set them on the rail surrounding the exhibit. Ever. I hold them tight. When they got older and tried to climb the rail, I made them get down right away, no matter what other mom's were allowing their kids to do. I really feel bad for this mother, she made a horrible mistake.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • tba

      What is so scary and true about your comment Mary Kaye, is you mention 'no matter what other parents/mothers/guardians were allowing their kids to do'. Poor judgement is so very common, it simply does not usually result in something this spectacular (spectacular in an attention-riveting way, not as in something great to see).

      November 6, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Joecool

    The kid definitely deserved his fate. It wasn't the kid, but the moron of the mom and EVERYONE ELSE around her that didn't stop her stupidity.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kelsey

      Why would a child EVER deserve that fate, not matter who the parents are? Sick.

      November 6, 2012 at 1:44 am | Report abuse |
    • JML

      The kid deserved his fate? Seriously? How cruel. The child didn't deserve anything like that. He was too young to know he was in danger. What he deserved was for somebody to say "hey! get your kid off of there!"

      November 6, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • VoiceOf Truth

      Sounds like you need Jesus immediately

      November 6, 2012 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      Well, Joe...thanks for providing us with all of the answers. We can rest easy now after hearing your soothing words. Perhaps spend some time in reflection today imagining how the parents and family are feeling right now. Imagine this happened to someone you love. You can't because you have no soul and no depth as a person. None of us are free from the risk of a tragedy hitting us at anytime. I hope you never have to experience one but I hope that you will find it in you to develop some love and compassion. For the time that comes that you need help you may find there is no one there.

      November 7, 2012 at 6:12 am | Report abuse |
  15. Boater

    I highly doubt a 2 year old made that decision....

    November 5, 2012 at 6:37 pm | Report abuse |
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