Pittsburgh Zoo Accident: 2-year-old Dies After Falling into African Painted Dogs Exhibit

Pittsburgh Zoo Death

A horrifying Pittsburgh Zoo accident has lead to a 2-year old boy’s death on Sunday afternoon.

At 11:48 a.m. at the Highland Park zoo complex, a 2-year old boy who was with his mother, fell approximately 14 feet down into an enclosure with African painted dogs.

Barbara Baker, director of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium said, “There is a railing with a graphic sign. And the child flipped over the top of that railing, and there is also a catch basin to catch things that fall into the exhibit. But apparently the child flipped over that as well.”

At the time of the fall, there were 11 of the endangered African painted dogs in the exhibit. Zoo keepers and police officers shot darts trying to lure the dogs away from the boy. Other zoo officials tried to beat the remaining African painted dogs back away from the boy that fell. The most aggressive dog was shot and killed by a Pittsburgh police officer as it seemed to not respond to zoo keepers. A news release stated that, “unfortunately, the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding”.

The dogs were removed from the exhibit, with the exception of the one that was shot and “Unfortunately, by the time EMTs were able to get to him, the boy had passed away,” Baker said.

The accident at the Pittsburgh zoo shut down the zoo within a half-hour and it’s not clear when it will be reopen.

Baker said the Pittsburgh zoo has never had a visitor death, but they will be investigating. She also said no decision has been made yet on the future of the exhibit.  “We’ve had the exhibit up since 2006 and we have not had any issues with the dogs,” Baker said. “This is a tragic accident.”

In May, some of the African painted dogs had crawled under a fence and escaped into another part of the exhibit that was closed. As a precaution, the Pittsburgh zoo was on lockdown for about an hour.

African painted dogs are among the most endangered dog species in the world, with less than 5,000 left. The Pittsburgh zoo has a breeding program. The Washington Post reported that, “Ten African painted dogs were born at the zoo in 2009, and their mother died of a ruptured uterus shortly after delivering the litter. Five of the pups survived. It was only the second litter to be hand-raised in captivity, along with one in the United Kingdom, zoo officials said at the time.”

Pittsburgh Zoo Accident

A 2-year-old was killed when he fell into an exhibit of endangered African dogs.

Pittsburgh Zoo Death

A two-year-old boy has been mauled to death by a pack of ravenous African wild dogs when he fell off a railing his mother put him on to view the animals at the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium.

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5 Comments on "Pittsburgh Zoo Accident: 2-year-old Dies After Falling into African Painted Dogs Exhibit"

  1. Its obvious that this is a mother who is an idiot for thinking she could put her child near a railing at a zoo. HAVE WE NOT SEEN THIS HAPPEN BEFORE WITH PREVIOUS ZOO ACCIDENTS?!

    When has any right minded parent ever taken their child to a zoo and said “hmmm let’s sit him up on the railing near these wild animals so they can see better…. seems legit!!”


  2. AnimalLover4Real | November 6, 2012 at 11:14 am | Reply

    Hey Scalywag, get real!!!! The zoo took all of the necessiary measures requried. What mother puts her 2 year old child on a railing and then looses her grip. Come on. The drop itself would have done severe damage if not killed the child. It is no doubt a very tragic accident, but that child should never have been on the railing. She didn’t take her child to a pet store, she took it to the zoo, where she should have followed the proper prodedure!
    Very sad/tragic incident – enough said.

    Leave the animals alone!

  3. I’m I missing something here?? How does a 2 year old boy fall into a pit? Did he go to the Zoo by himself?? Mother to blame 100%

  4. Once again the incident puts into focus the repercussions of human contact with animals in an environment where perhaps there ought to be no contact bearing in mind that at the end of the day these animals are animals from the wild who are preternaturally wired to act with deadly force and aggression without the slightest provocation.

    And then let’s not forget these dogs did escape less than 6 months ago from their pen which would suggest the zoo knew of certain dangers….?


    • Dr. David D. Davidson | November 6, 2012 at 12:06 am |

      The animals wouldn’t be an issue were it not for people like the idiot mother who put her child up on the railing. The animals aren’t the problem, people not following the proper safety guidelines is.

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