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. Mary Kaye Waterson

    You are a moron. The child was 2 years old. He didn't ask to sit on the rail, more than likely the only thing he said was, "Up, Mommy." You obviously don't have kids – do the world a favor and keep it that way.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Me

    We need to blame the mom! she put the kid up there? the dogs was at home! LOCK UP THE MOM! she killed her kid! WATCH UR KID AT THE ZOO!

    November 5, 2012 at 6:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenny L

      She will have to live with this for the rest of her life. I'm sure that is a horrible punishment to know you caused your child's death. Instead of throwing stones at her, I will just pray for her.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Unfortunatly

    I know one thing that if it was my child I would have been down on those dogs like the hulk there's no way I would have let my child die not with out a fight sure I would have been bloody but my kid would still be alive !

    November 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jenny L

      We never know what we would do in a horrible situation like that, but I totally agree with you. I just couldn't watch as my baby died without fighting for their life.

      November 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Jonseen

    Don't fall for the trolls, people. He's deliberately trying to raise a ruckus. And yes, he's disgusting.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • JellyBean

      Yup, got that right.

      November 6, 2012 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Kelsie

    Kyle, do you KNOW any toddlers? If so, how much control do they have over their fate?

    I can't even believe I was actually reading what you wrote...it was THAT offbase.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Charly

    Well ldone Kyle. With one simple comment you elicited 7 worthless responses.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  7. GHG

    A real stinkbag, aren't you Kyle?

    November 5, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Susan

    A 'fail proof' enclosure??? How about not putting your toddler on the rail of fenced in enclosure (yeah, there was wiring around the bottom of the rails) and then let him fall? How could they possibly think a mother would do that?

    November 5, 2012 at 6:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • durrr

      Brian obviously needs to up his meds.

      And no, having the net break would not help, since the child would have simply plummeted into the animals instead of bouncing into the animals.

      The child did not 'get away', he was deliberately placed on top of a barrier obviously intended to keep people out.

      The parent caused the death of her own child.

      Now stop being so hostile and violent.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Deluxe

      Okay dork you know what I meant. I didn't say the net should "rupture." How about: you wouldn't have the guts to say to the parents in person what you say on the internet Mr. Internet Muscles. Go back to reading your comic books jagoff. I suppose you have the police report that says he was deliberately placed on the barrier?

      November 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Susan

      The kid was deliberately placed on the rails. She let go and he fell. Thank you durrr, but all is well. I just didn't want to see the animals blamed for something that was clearly not their fault.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • jake

      Deluxe is an id1ot.

      November 5, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jdf

    Good one Kyle. You go down in the Troll hall of fame.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:53 pm | Report abuse |
  10. MORE Confused

    I'm confused simply by trying to decipher the comments of "Confused" & "Lee." "Confused" your name speaks volumes.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • confused

      you weak individual, what do you not understand. that I stand for something. I put the life of a toddler over the life of some mangy mutts.

      November 6, 2012 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sherry

    A 2 year old did not get up there on his own. Sounds like the Mother is to blame and not the Zoo. When my son was 2 he was either in my arms or strapped into his stroller.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jaywing

    Idiot mother. It's your fault the child died. -_-

    November 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daniela

      It seems to me the wild dogs roam on this site. Comments like this are sickening and it takes a real coward to not be able to feel the pain that these parents are enduring. God help you should tragedy ever strike your life...

      November 7, 2012 at 6:46 am | Report abuse |
  13. Burnzee

    I am not a hero, but I think if I saw my child fall in there I think I would have jumped in without even thinking about it to try and save my child. But you never know until you are in that situation. I pray that I nor anyone else is ever in that situation.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Papa Lazarou

    My neighbor's painted dogs are so friendly. My little girl pets Lucinda and Percival every morning before her Uncle Marvin takes her for a swim.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Peniel

    OMG...this is vry saddened, my prayer to the family.

    November 5, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
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