November 15th, 2010
06:44 PM ET

Afghanistan dog hero accidentally euthanized

A dog rescued from Afghanistan after she alerted soldiers to a suicide bomber was accidentally euthanized at an Arizona shelter on Monday.

A Pinal County Animal Care and Control employee has been placed on administrative leave for failing to follow procedures and euthanizing the wrong dog.

The dog, Target,  was recently brought over from Afghanistan by a soldier who had returned from his tour of duty.  Target was featured by CNN for heroism after saving dozens of soldiers from a suicide bomber on February 11.

"She got her name because the Afghans we lived with were constantly trying to off her.  She's been shot in the leg. ... The Afghans actually ran over her," Sgt. Christopher Duke said, who helped care for Target in Afghanistan and has adopted her packmate Rufus.  "There's no killing this dog for sure.  She's pretty much been through it all, " he said upon their reunion in July in Georgia.

Target's new owner, Army Sgt. Terry Young whose life was saved by the stray, helped bring the 2-ish-year-old from Afghanistan to her new home in Arizona.  She disappeared from Young's home on Friday.  Facebook postings requested help in finding her.

Target saved U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan

Animal Care and Control received a call about a stray female shepherd-mix dog in the San Tan Valley area on Friday.  An animal control officer picked up the dog and brought her to the shelter where the dog stayed over the weekend.  The dog was not microchipped or licensed with the county,  shelter officials said.

On Monday morning, the employee mistakenly took the dog out of its pen and euthanized it.  The dog was not scheduled for euthanasia.

“I am heartsick over this.  I had to personally deliver the news to the dog’s owner, and he and his family are understandably distraught,” said Animal Care and Control Director Ruth Stalter.  “We work hard get to strays reunited with their owners.  When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow.  Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.”

In an e-mail, Young told  CNN affiliate KPHO, "I'm an absolute wreck today, and it's everything in my power to hold it together for me and my family. My 4-year-old son just can't understand what is going on with Target and keeps asking me to get the poison out of her and bring her home. They don't want her to go be with God yet."

“An investigation is under way, and we will cooperate fully.  We will also thoroughly review procedures to ensure that something like this does not happen again,” Stalter said.  “This is unacceptable, and no family should be deprived of their companion because procedures were not followed.”

Target was pregnant when she helped thwart the suicide bomber by attacking him.  She had her litter of puppies in Afghanistan.  Target's puppies have since been brought to the United States.

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Filed under: Afghanistan
soundoff (990 Responses)
  1. Jennifer

    This is soo sad. I have a dog, and she is not microchipped, however she has a collar on when she goes outside. Has one considered that the dog might have slipped out of the collar or it got pulled off or worse someone (not in the family) let the dog lose. My dog actually slipped out of her collar once on a Saturday. Took us almost an hour to find her. BTW not all shelters are open on the weekends. On Saturday and Sunday our shelters are closed. The only thing they do is emergency pick ups. So the fact that this dog sat in a shelter all weekend means nothing. Almost no shelter is open on Sunday and if they are open Saturday they have reduced hours.
    My heart goes out to Target and her family.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:56 am | Report abuse |
  2. Roman

    I see people on this board calling the worker a "murderer" and what not. Last time i checked MURDER was the killing of another human being so i dont think killing a dog would technicaly be considered "murder". That said i think a human life and well being is worth more than a dog's and this is coming from someone who has two dogs. I love my dogs to death but im not going to put them ahead of any human's life.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
  3. Aaron

    These county animal shelters have employees that have cold hearts towards animals. Several years back, my mothers family dog was taken from her front yard, while she was there sitting with it. The animal control person said it should have been leashed. In my moms yard. She said to my mother, "Either I take him or I call the cops to come site you for interference". My mom relented. I called the shelter, they said that the truck with our dog had not made it in yet but I could call the next morning. I did. Found out how much was needed to pick him up. Went up there before lunch the next day. They had already put him down.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:14 am | Report abuse |
    • AMERICAN EXPAT

      Agree!

      November 16, 2010 at 9:40 am | Report abuse |
  4. oldguy

    We all need to ask ourselves: how did this war hero dog end up in the killing shelter in the first place. How did she "disappear from the home"? She unlatched the door and let herself out? No, she was probably let out unsupervised? The responsibility lies at home, not at the shelter.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Colin

      This might be the most reasonable thing that anyone has said in response to this article.

      November 16, 2010 at 4:32 am | Report abuse |
  5. Unveiled

    Ok first, what is with all the "Typical American" remarks? Seriously...

    Second...
    It's everyone's fault. The owners had plenty of time to have Target tagged, chipped etc. Also, if a dog is going to be in the backyard the yard should be 100% safe and inescapable. As for the worker, come on now. You are, presumably, an intelligent and literate adult, how do you make a mistake like this? We're not talking about a simple typo here, we're talking about a fatal mistake. These procedures should be gone over and checked, double checked and then checked again. End of story, no excuses. Just my opinion.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:21 am | Report abuse |
    • OMGGGG

      The dog was never licensed with the county or city and was not registered at all. That's a good dog owner! I bet we next hear of a lawsuit that gets settled out of court. Nothing like being completely irresponsible and making money off of it.

      November 16, 2010 at 1:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Ed Reynolds

      Whoever is texting "it's just a DOG" has not been in War zone. This was a special "Dog" that saved human lives. YES, the returned soldier should have tagged her, BUT, after being in combat U don't cool down for a while...takes months and years to adapt back to civiization. You get to feel that when the bullet has ur name on it, there's no dodging it. AND, U won't get dead before that. Is Sad that this friendly creature that connected to her human "pack" was so easily put to rest after getting back "home". Happens lots though to combat vet's from all Wars.

      November 16, 2010 at 4:23 am | Report abuse |
    • C T

      Well said, Unveiled. If the owner had really cared about the dog, the dog would have been licensed and chipped. Now the dog is dead because the owner couldn't be bothered to do that. I guess the dog wasn't all that important after all, eh?

      November 16, 2010 at 5:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Erik

      C T – "Now the dog is dead because the owner couldn't be bothered to do that." So you aren't blaming the employee who couldn't be bothered to follow proper procedure, huh? What a compassionate person you must be.

      November 16, 2010 at 6:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Rosalind

      The story doesn't say when Target was brought to America, only that she saved many lives in Afghanistan back in February. So, what makes you think that the soldier had "plenty of time" to get Target microchipped and licensed? CNN is known for leaving key details out of stories, but in this case I think you simply misread the article.

      November 16, 2010 at 6:43 am | Report abuse |
    • scott

      OK, unveiled is right and wrong. yes, 'typical american' means 0 zilch nothing nada its a BS catch phrase.
      Yes the clinic worker should have been more proffesional, perhaps his mom died that day and he was not himself-who knows. and "Also, if a dog is going to be in the backyard the yard should be 100% safe and inescapable." ????? have you ever heard of a learning curve? Maybe it was her first pet and she didn't know about a small hole behind a juniper tree left by the previous owner of her home. Maybe she just underestimated his ability to jump. I think putting the blame on the owner is fair, she was responsible for him. But to say you shouldn't let your dog out untill your yard is 100% inescapable. Dude! Read a prison wardens report on security containment sometime. What you just suggested is 100% impossible. It is always a challenge to thwart individuals bent on escape-animals included. unless you plan on being the expert on prison fencing for dogs who is going to go around teaching everyone how its done then your opinion is not just a little bit callous. it's cold.

      November 16, 2010 at 6:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Fellow

      I know a certain animal control employee that needs to accidently get euthanized.

      November 16, 2010 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Jon O

      No, it was not "everyone's" fault. It was the fault of one lazy, inept, stupid employee who did not follow procedure.

      Every in every industry two types of accidents occur – those that are truly "accidents" and those that result from stupidity on a person's part... this is one of the latter.

      Please have the integrity and the dignity to attach blame where it belongs... and it belongs with a single, solitary idiot who thought they had something better to do then doing their job "right."

      November 16, 2010 at 7:33 am | Report abuse |
    • marc

      Sadly you are totally correct 😦

      November 16, 2010 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Brian

      Thank you Captain Hindsight!

      November 16, 2010 at 8:00 am | Report abuse |
    • Veterinarian in PA

      plenty of time? the dog was still in afghanistan a few months ago. you can't justify euthanasia of an animal that a) is not sick AND b) has only been at the shelter for a very short amount of time – with a family that the shelter is already aware of. it was a big mistake and this should not have happened.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:07 am | Report abuse |
    • jjsmith3894

      CC- I'll do it! This is Obama's fault for not providing universal healthcare and taxpayer-funded dog chipping! This administration is infringing on our rights to quarter canines in a time of war

      November 16, 2010 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
    • Dubloh7

      There really is no such thing as a 100% escape proof yard. Anyone who says that they have one just hasn't had a dog escape YET. And yes, the dog definitely should have been microchipped. Preferably while she was still in quarrantine when she came to America. I find it unacceptable that she was not. The worker who euthanized her may have had personal problems, but still should have followed procedures before performing an act that ended a life. There are multiple blame factors at work here, but the end result is a tragedy.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • jjsmith3894

      Unveiled- Maybe you should have a procedure to check and re-check if you have a life. Seriously, who wants to hear your opinion? And did you notice you wrote this at 1:21 am? Maybe you should give your dog a hug and go to bed.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:22 am | Report abuse |
    • AYKM!

      Well said.The blame is two-sided and Target paid the ultimate price.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Betsy DeMarino. VMD

      The tragedy is compounded by the sheer number of lost and abandoned pets that get euthanized every day, everywhere. All pets should be neutered, microchipped, and controlled, but when they are lost, time has got to be given for their families to find them.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Clairebell

      Harsh as it is, that's what I was thinking: why wasn't that dog chipped or collared or licensed? It's a shame that she was killed, but really if you loved her that much take care of her!

      November 16, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
    • Alexandra

      I'm sorry to say this everyone, but obviously Arizona is the land of Racism and Death. Boycott Arizona !!

      November 16, 2010 at 9:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Jennys942

      I don't blame the owner. He just came back from a war zone for God's sake, but I think the grossly negligent employee should be accidentally euthanized.

      November 16, 2010 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
  6. Joe

    More comments on this news story than the news stories about dead soldiers.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Charlie Kilo

      Man's best friend. 'Nuff said.

      November 16, 2010 at 2:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      That's how it is. To use a movie for comparison, look at ID4 - most of the world is wiped out in an alien attack, but the audience cheers when Wil Smith's dog escapes the fireball in the tunnel.

      November 16, 2010 at 4:35 am | Report abuse |
    • LeavingCali

      "More comments on this news story than the news stories about dead soldiers"

      Yeah...dogs don't judge. Unlike you...

      November 16, 2010 at 5:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Rich

      yeah and you....are no Soldier

      November 16, 2010 at 7:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Neeneko

      *shrug* dead soldiers are not news.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:52 am | Report abuse |
  7. Dave

    Let's move forward. Despite how it happened, it has happened, a hero to our country and our troops has passed. Maybe we posters and readers should put our thoughts to action and call for a burial, at Arlington, with full military honors for a life that saved others during wartime actions.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:27 am | Report abuse |
    • daggerfly

      Hey great idea! And she left behind pups! How about full medical benefits for them, and a pension? Dog is god spelled backwards. I get goosebumps!

      November 16, 2010 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Tricia

      That is absurd!

      November 16, 2010 at 7:34 am | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Tricia, not at all absurd. Especially not to the soldiers whose lives the dog saved. If you haven't served in a war zone, think twice about calling someone else's opinion on this "absurd".

      November 16, 2010 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
    • John

      If a human soldier had saved that many soldier lives, there'd be no question of a burial in Arlington.

      I say it's a good idea, and I'm a veteran who has three siblings currently serving in the Army.

      We owe military working dogs an incredible debt, nothing and nobody can do the kind of work they do, and they don't volunteer for it.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • KJM1968

      Excellent idea, he deserves to be buried with all the other war heros.

      November 16, 2010 at 9:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Allison

      Well said Dave- I agree. War dogs (and all dogs) really do save lives, even if its just by being a silent listener. And sadly I have gone to too many shelters where the workers are anything but competent. If this had happened to my dogs I truly do not know how I could go on.

      November 16, 2010 at 9:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. TR

    I feel sick about this.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • mobrule

      me too. usually I like to make snarky comments about news stories, but I'll pass this time.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. daggerfly

    All dogs go to heaven! And why are people adopting dogs from other countries when thousands of American animals are being euthanized every day because they have no loving home? Hm, some Jolieish exotic kid/animal accessory fad . . . and does anyone ever stop to consider that dogs might NOT WANT to be chipped, vaccinated, neutered, spayed, and imprisoned like PROPERTY??? Maybe they RUN when they get a chance because they want to be free to mate, and hunt, and have a life besides kibbles and a bowl of water and some weirdo baby-talking to them in a language they mostly don't even understand.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:41 am | Report abuse |
    • KLL

      You're an idiot. It's people like you that give the human race a bad, bad name.....

      November 16, 2010 at 4:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      Yes! Everyone - set your chihuahuas and poodles loose in the forests and cry out "Hunt, little guy! You're free!"

      November 16, 2010 at 4:37 am | Report abuse |
    • BigJ

      I can't believe how many negative comments have been posted about this piece of news!! I mean those negative posters MUST be absolute morons. They have either didn't understand what this Dog was all about and WHY this sad story made the news or they are sheer stupid. My question to you, as a Dog, this animal saved lives, HOW MANY lives did YOU save?! So think before you post. God, no wonder America is in the state it is in... From a World leading 1st world country, becoming a 3rd World trailer 😦

      November 16, 2010 at 6:27 am | Report abuse |
    • reborn hippie

      This guy makes me want to hug a tree...

      November 16, 2010 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • professorekks

      yes KLL, the parrots are constantly talking about how terrible the humans are. and the whales are making high pitched squeels to each other about how terrible we are. how painful it is for me to have a bad reputation to the rest of the animal kingdom.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:29 am | Report abuse |
    • Tanzi

      Thomas is fantastic.

      November 16, 2010 at 9:01 am | Report abuse |
  10. joe

    Made it through hell in the war, killed in the United States. Sounds real familiar to me.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:54 am | Report abuse |
    • Rbnlegnd101

      More than a few soldiers out there can identify with this story. Target was treated better in the war zone than back at home.

      November 16, 2010 at 7:20 am | Report abuse |
    • George Ridler

      Cruel irony.

      November 16, 2010 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |
  11. MO

    It is a tragedy. Why not leave it at that? Life is short and life is cruel, and sometimes mistakes do have consequences. Stop reading and go home and find someone with whom to hold out against the night.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
  12. OMGGGG

    The dog was not even registered or licensed with the county. What kind of family gets a dog and doesn't license it.. much less a war hero dog.... I think a family looking for a way to sue the county for a few bucks!!!

    November 16, 2010 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
    • KillaShoe

      I think you're paranoid. They probably just didn't want to spend the money on getting it done because they didn't think they would have any problems with her running away. I highly doubt they let the dog run away in hopes she would get captured, sent to two different shelters and then accidentally euthanized. Go put your foil helmet back on.

      November 16, 2010 at 2:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick

      ??? Lots of people do not "license" their dogs. I never have. And I have always had pets. They are properly spayed/neutered...have their vaccinations...and their regular checkups. MY dogs live long happy lives to 14, 15, 16 years of age. They certainly wear identification in the unlikely event of getting out, but I do not believe in a compulsary state-run-money-making system of required dog-licensing. It's nobody's damn business what dogs I have...

      November 16, 2010 at 2:27 am | Report abuse |
    • barbara

      right, so his master plan was to let the dog get caught and he knew that they would accidentally administer euthanasia drugs to it and he could then sue? you need a few screws tightened!

      November 16, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Allison

      OMGGGG you're an a$$. I am beyond positive that this family would rather have their dog (and family member) back over any pay check.
      And I have never registered my dogs – they wear tags and get all their shots and pills right on time. Also if I find a stray dog (probably have found 15) I try to find the owners – I HAVE/WILL NEVER drop it off at a shelter. I keep it until I find the owners or somebody to adopt it.

      November 16, 2010 at 9:25 am | Report abuse |
  13. Reza

    "Lucky" IM sorry Target was a great dog. He will be missed.

    November 16, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Chef Sun

      Hey genius, Target was a female dog. This was clearly stated in the article if you bothered to read it.

      November 16, 2010 at 2:36 am | Report abuse |
    • LeavingCali

      Chef...you just logged in to ridicule someone for their use of an incorrect pronoun...

      You must be a JOY to be around.

      November 16, 2010 at 5:37 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jackie

    REALLY? How do you "accidentally" euthanize something? Its either you did it on purpose or don't do it at all. Jeez you killed a war vet hero. Way to go smart one. How can you sleep at night?

    November 16, 2010 at 1:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric

      You can't really call a dog a "hero" that dog wasn't making a conscious decision to help American soldiers... it was just an animal.. sad yes, but lets not attribute too many human traits to a dog here please

      November 16, 2010 at 3:47 am | Report abuse |
    • C T

      Well, how does one love an animal so much that they fail to chip, license or even put any identification like a tag on the dog? If you want to assign blame, blame the owner. A collar with a phone number written on it would have prevented this.

      November 16, 2010 at 6:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Jessica

      Well, I guess we can't be too surprised, people get the wrong limb amputated every year. Can we be too far off to think a simpler mistake would happen at an animal shelter?

      November 16, 2010 at 7:39 am | Report abuse |
  15. tori

    It was a DOG! This animal is getting more press and comments than one of the many servicemen and women that were killed during the war.

    November 16, 2010 at 2:02 am | Report abuse |
    • DogLover

      just a dog??? what if it were your dog??? this has nothing to do with the servicemen getting killed. it is about an idiot who should be fired and not put on administrative leave. have you ever owned a dog? have you ever watched you kids cry their eyes out because something that is "just a dog died?" have you ever felt you just lost the only thing worth anything when that "just a dog" died? dogs give us complete unquestioned love and fools like you can't see that. i hope you never have kids and if you do i pitty them. people with this type of mentality sicken me. i'd rather live my life around a pack of dogs then have to suffer one second with a shallow minded idiot like you!

      November 16, 2010 at 2:46 am | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      DogLover, what if it were your dad that didn't come home instead of your dog? If I were 4 years old, I know which one would be harder for me to get over. Other than you, who cares? It's just a dog.

      November 16, 2010 at 3:44 am | Report abuse |
    • C T

      DogLover, if you're going to call people idiots perhaps you could start with the owner who loved the dog so much that he couldn't bother to register her, chip her or even give her a collar with a tag on it.

      November 16, 2010 at 6:03 am | Report abuse |
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