PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – The African Painted Dogs at the Pittsburgh Zoo have not been on display since a tragic accident that resulted in a child being mauled to death in November.
“We really have been thinking very hard about the future of African Painted Dogs here at our zoo,” said Dr. Barbara Baker, the president of the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.
It was early last November when 2-year-old Maddox Derkosh, of Whitehall, fell off an observation platform and into the African Painted Dogs exhibit. He was mauled to death by the dogs.
Since shortly after the accident, the 10 surviving dogs have been kept out of public view. The 11th was shot during the initial response. The observation deck has been torn down.
Now, the zoo says the dogs will not be back.
“We have decided that we’re going to send all of the dogs out this year to other zoos and continue to work on conserving them in the wild and working with our partners in the wild,” said Baker. “But we won’t exhibit painted dogs here, and give the community and the zoo family and the family a chance to heal.”
Four of the dogs have already been sent elsewhere. The other six will go soon.
Dr. Baker says their behavior has been normal, and placing them elsewhere has not been a problem.
The exhibit space will remain empty for now, but Baker says it might eventually be home to other animals, possibly cheetahs.
Since the tragedy, attention naturally has focused on the heartbroken Derkosh family.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family every single day,” said Baker. “It’s just very, very sad.”
Meanwhile, at the zoo, Baker says moving on has not been easy. Her staff has had professional counseling.
“Especially the people who were directly involved; making sure we take care of them and keep an eye on them, help them in any way that we can,” she added.
Following today’s announcement from the zoo, the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office has issued the following statement:
“Our investigation into last year’s death of Maddox Derkosh revealed no criminal conduct on behalf of anyone associated with the Pittsburgh Zoo. Unless the United States Department of Agriculture discovers any deficiencies in their final report that would convince us to revisit that position, our investigation will be closed.”