African painted dogs that mauled child at Pittsburgh zoo will not be euthanized, CEO says


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The African painted dogs that mauled to death a child at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium on Sunday will not be euthanized, remaining instead in quarantine, the zoo's chief executive said today.

In a tearful press conference, Pittsburgh Zoo president and CEO Barbara Baker said there was nothing that responding staff could have done to save a toddler who fell into the painted dog exhibit.

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"We had staff within ten feet of the exhibit," she said, but there was nothing that could be done. "It was too dangerous" for staff to enter the yard where the boy was.

"There is no such thing as a fail-proof exhibit," Ms. Baker said.

Relatives identified the boy as Maddox Derkosh from Whitehall. The boy's father, Jason Derkosh, is a building designer at the architectural firm L. Robert Kimball & Associates.

Ms. Baker said the boy fell from an observation area and was small enough that he bounced twice on protective netting before falling into the exhibit. An Allegheny County medical examiner's review found that the boy was not fatally injured in the fall, Ms. Baker said.

From the fence where zoo staff first responded and could access the exhibit, the boy was about 12 feet away, Ms. Baker said. They used dummy tranquilizers to "spook" the animals because tranquilizers are harmful to humans. They did not want to harm the boy, she said.

A special weapons team at the zoo arrived at the exhibit at the same time as Pittsburgh police, Ms. Baker said. The zoo decided it was better that police enter, she said.

A keeper was able to call away seven of the 11 dogs. Of the four that did not leave the boy, police shot one.

The zoo will reopen Tuesday. Visitors will be allowed to pay their respects, Ms. Baker said.

The zoo was inspected in July and accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, she said. The accrediting organization will require a report from the zoo on the incident.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2533. Twitter: @moriahbee First Published November 5, 2012 6:30 PM


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