Pittsburgh Zoo will permanently close African painted dogs exhibit
The Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has or will move to other zoos the African painted dogs that fatally mauled a 2-year-old boy last fall.
The Highland Park zoo has moved four of the dogs and will move the remaining six soon, Barbara Baker, the zoo's president and CEO, told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday.
Baker said the zoo's policy is not to reveal where it sends animals, but the zoos receiving the dogs have other African painted dogs, she confirmed. Fewer than 3,000 of them remain in the wild, making them an endangered species.
Maddox Derkosh of Whitehall died Nov. 4 after his mother, Elizabeth Derkosh, lifted him onto a railing to get a better look at the animals. The boy fell 14 feet onto a mesh net and bounced into the pen. Zookeepers rushed to save him, but it was too dangerous for them to enter the yard. One especially aggressive dog was fatally shot.
An autopsy report revealed Maddox survived the fall but had no chance against the pack of dogs and bled to death. It was the first visitor death in the zoo's 114-year history.
“We really want to give the Pittsburgh community an opportunity to heal,” Baker said. “This particular accident affected us all.”
The zoo placed the dogs in quarantine for 30 days, closed the exhibit and has since removed the observation deck from which Maddox fell.
District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. has said that neither the zoo nor Elizabeth Derkosh will face criminal charges. The Derkosh family couldn't be reached for comment.
“Our investigation into last year's death of Maddox Derkosh revealed no criminal conduct on behalf of anyone associated with the Pittsburgh Zoo,” said Zappala's spokesman Mike Manko. “Unless the (U.S. Department of Agriculture) discovers any deficiencies in their final report that would convince us to revisit that position, our investigation will be closed.”
Representatives for the USDA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit organization that accredits zoos and aquariums, did not return calls.
A USDA spokesman in November said investigators were looking for violations of the Animal Welfare Act, which governs the treatment of animals in public exhibits. The spokesman at the time said there was no timeline for the investigation, and any violations would be made public.
Baker said the painted dog exhibit has been inspected 35 times since the city built it as a cheetah enclosure in 1992. On Wednesday, Baker said the zoo is considering reopening the exhibit to use once again as a cheetah enclosure.
For now, however, the zoo is hoping to build on last year's popularity when nearly 1 million people visited — the fourth-highest total in the zoo's history.
“Part of the healing process,” Baker said, “is getting back to normal as much as we can.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates trade for Mariners LHP Happ, Dodgers 1B/OF Morse
- Steelers notebook: Officials discuss new game ball procedures
- Pirates place Burnett on 15-day disabled list
- Hurdle: Soria likely to assume setup role with Watson
- Armstrong escapee caught; murder charges pending
- Gameday: Pirates at Cincinnati, Aug. 1, 2015
- Police: Lincoln-Lemington burglary suspect shoots self during foot chase with police
- Allegheny County DA’s office: Photo of staffer with gun evidence violates protocol
- MLB notebook: Mets boost lineup, acquire Cespedes from Tigers
- Heyl: Longtime disc jockey Jimmy Roach to turn dismissal into brighter times
- West Kittanning church marks 100 years of ups and downs