Mom of Toddler Killed by Zoo Dogs Did Not Jump After Him -- But Don’t Judge Her!

African wild dogIt's the kind of tragic accident you find it hard to imagine, and who knows how you'll react when you see something so horrifying. In the aftermath of the death of a 2-year-old boy who slipped from an exhibit railing and was mauled to death by African painted dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo, more than one conversation has come up about how nobody jumped in to help the boy as the dogs attacked.

Even beginning a conversation about whether the mother should have been holding the child up to see the animals -- or if she should have even been able to get him that close -- is cruel and unusual. Her loss is beyond comprehension, and my heart breaks thinking about how she must be feeling. But people are asking how everyone could just stand there and watch.

The first words out of my friend's mouth last night when we were talking about it were: "Why didn't anyone jump in after him?"

It's a question worth asking, but not with the goal of placing blame on anyone who witnessed the attack. They screamed, shouting that someone needed to do something, but none of them went in after the boy.

Would I have jumped in if it had been my child or my niece that had fallen? My gut reaction is that yes, of course I would. I think? But you don't actually know until you're in a situation how you'll handle it. Maybe things happened so quickly that nobody had the time to react. Maybe the dogs were so ferocious that following the boy into the exhibit was too terrifying. A zoo employee jumped in first and tried banging a rake against the fence to distract the dogs, but it didn't work.

Zoo staff "quickly determined the dog attack was fatal and didn't send handlers into the enclosure to intervene," the AP reported, and tried to recall the dogs to their enclosure. Did they do everything they could? Four of the 11 dogs lingered by the boy, and one of the dogs was shot and killed.

I can't imagine what those minutes must have felt like to everyone there, but it makes sense to me that witnessing such a horrible tragedy would paralyze those families visiting the zoo and the staff, who had never experienced anything like it. Everyone did the best they could.

Do you think you would have risked your own life to try and save the child from the wild dogs?


Image via Mister-E/Flickr

accidents, animals, in the news, safety

171 Comments

To add a comment, please log in with

Use Your CafeMom Profile

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Join CafeMom or Log in to your CafeMom account. CafeMom members can keep track of their comments.

Comment As a Guest

Guest comments are moderated and will not appear immediately.

Karis... Karissa_ruiz

I would of jumped in. No question about it. I would of done anything to saw them.

Caera Caera

I'm totally judging her. I'm judging her for ignoring all of the rules and the safety signs - and plain old common sense - that says DON'T PLACE A CHILD ON THE BARRICADE.


I hope the zoo sues her for the loss of one of it's animals.

Tara Morris

Yep, I'm judging her.  Parents need to have the good sense to not put their children into dangerous situations.  Her child paid the price of her bad judgement.

jrphelps jrphelps

Yes I would have jumped in to protect my child.  If not me, then my husband or both of us.  I don't know how many adults were with the child that day.  BUT the mother should have NEVER put him on the railing.  I am judging her.  She will have to live with this the rest of her life but who in their right mind puts their child on the railing of an exhibit of wild, vicious animals.  Those animals don't know the difference between a child & their next meal.  They are wild animals in captivity & it is your job not to cross the line into their environment.  Kids move entirely to quickly.  She should have been holding him on her hip, tightly.  Not on the railing.  It is so dumb and I do judge her.

nonmember avatar Christie

I am NOT judging the mother. She is going through a pain that's so unbearable that most of us cannot imagine. I do hope, though, that his death was not in vain. I think that the zoos need to try to close up these enclosures as best they can, to avoid situations like this. But most of all I think that parents that normally would not see anything wrong with lifting up their child over a fence at a zoo will now think twice. The term "common sense" does not exist anymore it is now "rare sense". The majority of people out there would think there is no harm in lifting a kid over a fence at a zoo, and that is scary. I think that common sense is dead and that's sad. I feel horrible for this mother and their family. I would jump in after my child, even if they were dead the minute they hit the ground, I would not have given a second thought to me dying too. To be honest if I was the cause of my child's death I would want to be dead as well.

nonmember avatar krelia

Zoo staff even said if anybody jumped in the outcome would not of changed. Most likely you'd have two dead bodies rather than one. The mother messed up trying to give her kid a better view, yes its an accident but its her fault. The difference would be if a railing broke or something of that nature under normal viewing circumstances.

nonmember avatar Jack Hoff

Not only did she cause the death of her child she potentially risked the lives of many others. If I was present I would have jumped in even though the child was not mine thus she was putting the lives of everyone else who was present that day.

This was a preventable accident.

dirti... dirtiekittie

yes, i am judging the mother. and i'm not apologetic for it. there are signs in place, warning you not to lift your child above the railings. according to zoo staff and witnesses, the mother did this *multiple* times at multiple exhibits and was warned *multiple* times that it was dangerous and she should not be lifting/raising her child the way that she did. it angers me that there are people who will find fault with the zoo, with the animals, with enclosures, with safety measures ... all because this woman *IGNORED* them. the zoo had just had their five year safety review completed and passed. this mother made an incredibly stupid mistake and her baby boy had to pay with his life. yes, it is a horrible tragedy and NO mother ever wants to outlive their child - but this woman is to blame for his death, and she really only has herself to blame.


the entitlement generation, eh? the "rules don't apply to me" generation? that's what this screams of to me. "my child is so special, i'm going to ignore EVERY SIGN AND WARNING IN PLACE ABOUT HOISTING UP MY CHILDREN AND DO IT ANYWAY!! and if something bad happens, it's SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT!!"

Reepi... Reepicheep.CSL

Can we please stop calling this an accident? It was negligence and stupidity, not an accident.

The boy wasn't just wandering along and fell into the enclosure, he was intentionally place on top of the fence and not held on to. It wasn't an accident.

If a mother held her child out the window on a car and he fell and died, would it be an accident?

I am judging this mother. She was an idiot, ignored warnings and caused her sons death. She now feels bad.. but that doesn't negate the fact that she was a negligent idiot.

lulab... lulabellalula

i'm a mother & i am judging her. I'm judging her for her stupidity that lead to her child's horrible death, but i am mostly judging her for NOT jumping in after her own child.  When I read the story, my heart broke when I thought of my own little boy. The thought of living without him is unbearable & i would have jumped in whether the outcome would have been the same or not. I'd rather die trying to save my child then just sit back and watch, hoping somebody else will try and do it. it's MY JOB as his mother to protect him, to make sure he is safe & to give my life for him if necessary. 

1-10 of 171 comments 12345 Last