The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

November 5, 2012

Autopsy: Dogs killed boy

— Endangered wild dogs associated with a Somerset County preservation program were responsible for the death of a toddler who fell into an exhibit at the Pittsburgh zoo on Sunday, authorities say.

The boy’s mother had picked him up and put him on top of a railing at the edge of a viewing deck at the African painted dogs exhibit late Sunday morning when he lost his balance and fell, Barbara Baker, CEO and president of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, told The Associated Press.

There was a safety net below the railing, but it failed to catch him and the boy dropped more than 10 feet into the enclosure, she said.

“The child was so small that he bounced. He bounced twice and then he bounced into the exhibit,” said Baker, tearing up at a news conference Monday afternoon.

The animals attacked the child so violently and quickly that by the time a veterinarian and other zoo staffers arrived seconds later, they determined it would have been futile to try rescuing the boy, she said.

Baker said she had been informed by the Allegheny County medical examiner that an autopsy determined the boy survived the plunge. The medical examiner’s office has not yet publicly confirmed its findings or released the boy’s name.

Facilities have been under development to introduce a painted dogs breeding program at the zoo’s International Conservation Center near Fairhope in southern Somerset County. The 724-acre center opened off Glen Savage Road includes parts of Allegheny and Fairhope townships.

African painted dogs and springbok gazelles were scheduled to join African elephants at the center this fall, Baker said during an accreditation visit to the center in July.

Zoo spokeswoman Tracy Gray said she had no information about the dogs’ arrival in Somerset County, but Allegheny Township Supervisor Dale E. Miller said he does not believe any dogs have been brought to the International Conservation Center.

Zoo officials have been keeping township leaders abreast of the facility’s development, Miller said.

“They have been working with us pretty well,” Miller said.

In April 2011, more than 60 animal experts gathered at the center for a Painted Dog Conference. One of conference leaders stressed the importance of the Pittsburgh zoo’s breeding program.

“They are a critically endangered species, with a better than 50 percent chance the species will go extinct in our lifetime,” said John Lemon, chairman of Painted Dog Conservation Inc. in Perth, Australia.

“It’s ideal for them to be in an open-range situation that the ICC can provide – an area large enough to display naturalistic behavior in social structure right through to breeding.”

Pittsburgh zoo’s breeding program is being developed in partnership with Painted Dog Conservation Inc. The organization calls painted dogs the most-threatened carnivore species in Africa, numbering less than 3,000 in the wild. In 1900, there were half a million dogs in 39 countries, the organization’s website said.

The painted dog has been designated as a symbol for programs targeting at-risk youth in the Pittsburgh area. Project Destiny is developing a cabin retreat in the Somerset County center, the zoo’s website says. Exposure to the conservation program is intended to promote positive social and character development and leadership skills through cultural learning.

The zoo was immediately closed after Sunday’s accident but was expected to reopen today.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • bank1 West End bank robbed

    The West End branch of AmeriServ Financial was robbed Tuesday morning, two days before the branch is scheduled to close.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • weather_2 Old Man Winter returns to area

    Just when you think we’ve finally escaped the cold temperatures, winter swoops back in to remind us it’s not going away just yet.

    April 15, 2014 2 Photos

  • City seeks support for sewer revamp

    The city is looking for backup from the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority in spreading what they call “true” facts and figures regarding the city’s encompassing sewer revamp.

    April 15, 2014

  • Airport gets lift with $180G grant

    The John Murtha Johnstown–Cambria County Airport needs to replace some basic maintenance equipment: a pickup truck, painting machine, chain saw, weed eater, hand tools and more.
    So, on Tuesday, the airport’s authority agreed to accept Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Bureau of Aviation grant money that already has been tentatively allocated.

    April 15, 2014

  • Cresson asks court to force ex-chief to sign pact

    An agreement reached more than a month ago between Cresson Borough Council and its former police chief still has not been signed, and the borough is asking a judge to intervene.

    April 15, 2014

  • hamer 16 Mom told to seek help for addiction

    A Johnstown woman charged with tossing her 4-month-old baby and with drug-related offenses pleaded guilty and was sentenced in Cambria County court on Tuesday.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Elder justice events set

    In an effort to combat elder abuse in area communities, an elder justice seminar will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 24 at the Johnstown Senior Center, 550 Main St., downtown Johnstown. In addition, a free elder abuse clergy training seminar will be held from 8:30 to 10 a.m. April 25 at Moxham Lutheran Church, 500 Park Ave., Johnstown.

    April 15, 2014

  • Local briefs 4/16/2014

    April 15, 2014

  • bomb1 VIDEO | A year after marathon bombing, Boston remains strong

    The City of Boston came together Tuesday to honor those who were injured and lost their lives at the Boston Marathon on the one-year anniversary of the bombing. While the day was sure to be emotional, those affected by last year's race are showing they won't let the tragedy keep them down.

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Freeh gets expedited appeal in Penn State lawsuit

    April 15, 2014


Do you think that Jack Williams will get the 270 signatures from city residents needed in order to have a referendum placed on a municipal ballot to have the city's pressure test mandate repealed?

I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos

Photo Slideshow

House Ads