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Child, 2, killed after falling into African painted dog exhibit at Pittsburgh Zoo

Posted by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 7:48 AM
  • 12 Replies

 

Updated: 7:18 a.m. Monday, Nov. 5, 2012 | Posted: 1:14 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4, 2012

Child, 2, killed after falling into African painted dog exhibit at Pittsburgh Zoo

 

PITTSBURGH -

A 2-year-old boy visiting the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium with his mother and friends was killed Sunday when he fell about 11 feet off an observation deck into an African painted dogs exhibit.

Pittsburgh police's major crimes Lt. Kevin Kraus said the child's mother had lifted him onto a railing on a deck for the exhibit housing 11 of the wild dogs.

"The mother picked the child up, put him on the railing," Kraus said. "Almost immediately after that, he fell into the pit."

Investigators said after falling into the pit, the dogs immediatley began mauling him. Though, it was not clear if the child's exact cause of death was from the fall or the attack, said Pittsburgh Zoo president and CEO Barbara Baker.

"It's clear that the dogs did attack the child, but whether he died of the attack or the fall has yet to be determined," Baker said.

When the boy fell other visitors immediately told staff members, who responded along with Pittsburgh police, officials said. Zookeepers said they called off the dogs, and seven of them immediately went to a back building. Three more eventually were drawn away from the boy, but the last dog wouldn't come into the building, and police had to shoot him, Baker said.

Baker said the dogs, which are territorial by nature, went into a pack mentality and attacked the boy.

"The dogs were doing what the dogs normally do," Baker said.

The zoo was evacuated immediately after the incident, Baker said.

Bart DePasquale, 29, of Fox Chapel was at the zoo with family members for a birthday party near the painted dog exhibit, and heard screams erupt from the area.

"They were saying, ‘Get away. Stay away!'" DePasquale said. "Eventually the screams were heavily distressed. There was profanity."

The dogs are about as big as medium-sized domestic dogs, 2 to 2½ feet high and 37 to 80 pounds, according to the zoo. African wild dogs are also known as cape hunting dogs, spotted dogs, and painted wolves. They have large, rounded ears and dark brown circles around their eyes and are considered endangered.

Police and the Allegheny County medical examiner's office are investigating. Baker said the zoo, which has never had a visitor death, plans an internal investigation, and no decision has been made yet on the future of the exhibit.

The dogs normally live in a 1.5 acre exhibit called the Painted Dog Bush Camp that's part of a larger open area called the African Savanna, where elephants, lions and other animals can be seen.

In May, some of the dogs crawled under a fence and escaped into a part of the exhibit that's usually closed. The zoo was on lockdown for about an hour as a precaution.

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. The mortality rate for painted pups is 50 percent, even when born in the wild to a healthy mother.

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.

The zoo will remain closed until further notice, Baker said.


The zoo released the following statement on Sunday afternoon:

 

"It is with heavy hearts we report that a tragic accident occurred Sunday at 11:45 a.m. when a young child fell into the African painted dog exhibit area and was killed.

Visitors alerted staff who immediately responded to the situation. A painted dog keeper was able to get 4 of the 11 dogs off exhibit when the first call went out that a child had fallen into the exhibit. Upon responding, a representative of the Veterinarian Department shot darts into the exhibit to scare away the dogs. Unfortunately the dogs were in pack mentality and not responding.

At the same time keepers attempted to enter the yard to lure the dogs away but were unable to reach the child. Keepers along with Pittsburgh Police continued to lure the dogs away however; one aggressive dog was shot and killed by an officer.

The accident is under investigation by both the Zoo and the Pittsburgh Police Department. The Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium will remain closed until further notice."

by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 7:48 AM
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Replies (1-10):
LyTe684
by Tasha on Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:09 AM
Because it was to hard to hold her kid?! Poor baby. :(
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theirmommy04
by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:15 AM
That is so incredibly heartbreaking!!!
piratehooker
by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:40 AM
What a dumb fuck mom. Who does thtat??
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Anonymous
by Anonymous 1 on Nov. 5, 2012 at 8:42 AM
I feel bad for what she is going through and don't want to say she deserved it, but damn. What do you expect when you put your kid on a railing? Its there for a reason. Sadly, she had to find out the hard way.
imaluckymommy
by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 9:02 AM
This is so heartbreaking! God bless that sweet baby and poor family.
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Anonymous
by Anonymous 2 on Nov. 5, 2012 at 9:34 AM
One of my fb friends just posted this as well.

Sad...
Sheilamommyof3
by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 9:43 AM
So sad :-(
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Apr1l
by Bronze Member on Nov. 5, 2012 at 9:46 AM
So sad!!! Gah makes me so angry
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sweettigeress
by on Nov. 5, 2012 at 9:47 AM
1 mom liked this

Ugh, exactly. If you're going to lift your child up to get a better look, freaking hold on to him. That poor child.

Quoting LyTe684:

Because it was to hard to hold her kid?! Poor baby. :(


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Hottmomma607
by Trica on Nov. 5, 2012 at 10:23 AM
1 mom liked this
Wow I know it was a complete accident! But seriously!

Quoting LyTe684:

Because it was to hard to hold her kid?! Poor baby. :(
Posted on the NEW CafeMom Mobile
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