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. Loriel

    I cannot believe the insensitive remarks I am reading. First of all, my dog once escaped by getting out of his collar. It happens. No, Target was not microchipped but just perhaps they could not afford it at the time. I know that the internet is the place for "trolling," but I am still astounded by all of the cruel comments. The shelter worker did not do this on purpose but it brings to light that thousands of healthy and often once loved animals are killed at shelters every single day. This dog, a hero who meant so much to the soldiers she bonded with, is just another brutally unfortunate victim of the pet overpopulation problem we have in the U.S. Okay a$$h@les, have at it.

    November 16, 2010 at 7:36 am | Report abuse |
  2. d.cleveland

    with the amount of veterans that end up on the street being thrown away by a system that uses them up and spits them out the other end...its not surprising that a dog who saved soldiers should end of coming to an end this way. just another sad story

    November 16, 2010 at 7:37 am | Report abuse |
  3. Lenny

    The dog obviously had a fatwa on it.

    November 16, 2010 at 7:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Lslg4

    This is so sad. And wow.....to some of the comments.

    November 16, 2010 at 7:58 am | Report abuse |
  5. ed

    ... ooooops...

    November 16, 2010 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Christian

      Yup. As so often happens on Death Row (while the real killer is laughing it up)!

      November 16, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  6. quetzalcoatl

    So we liberated people who are sooooo mean to puppies? If only we had known...

    November 16, 2010 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
  7. piggusmaximus

    How sad. The nasty comments are obviously coming from people who have never been the primary caregiver of dogs or children. Maybe the family will get one of Target's puppies.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:04 am | Report abuse |
  8. Wade N Ginger N Eastman Georgia

    This is by far the MOST sickening thing I have ever ever heard in my 40yrs on this planet. After all this wonderful animal had gone through in her life,Then to be rescued and brought to the United States to live out her life without fear of being shot or poisoned,Only to be poisoned by accident. I am an avid animal lover,my wife and children have several dogs and cats as well. Some of our dogs do stay inside our home,But no cats do because our cats just prefer to stay outside,We have offered several times for our cats to stay in but they just seem to be natures pets. We just feed and nurture them, How can this happen? And im not just saying this because this dog was special due to her war heroism, I know she is the reason that several of our Troops are alive today but just think about how many animals are killed each and every day because they do not have a home. We treat our population of Murderers,Kidnappers, Thieves and other petty criminals as if they are still worthy of decent treatment,Then why can't the United States do more for the homeless animals other than just putting them down!!!! To me these poor animals deserve better treatment than those deadbeats we have to feed and shelter each and every day,Hell they get better healthcare than I do. Some body should pay for this,and pay dearly.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:08 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Houston

      This is not the most sickening thing I have ever heard or seen in my 70+ years, Wade/Ginger. It doesn't rank up there
      with the Holocaust, Pearl Harbor, 9/11/001...but it is certainly a tragedy that I will never forget, and one that none of
      us should ever ignore. It's the kind of monstrously negligent human behavior that we all need to overcome and prevent.
      Judging from some of the comments I've read, though, that will be a long time coming. You are right that someone
      should pay for this kind of human stupidity. Poor Target and her adoptive family certainly did.

      November 17, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  9. piggusmaximus

    Also, I don't know if this family lives in an area similar to my parents... but my parents live in the south in a rural area and NOBODY registers their dogs. It's just different. If there is available or required registration, it is definitely not something that is advertised.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. mike

    Now if we can only start euthanizing arizonans

    November 16, 2010 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
    • Christian

      Now THERE is a worthy cause!

      November 16, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
  11. dfc58

    Whoops!

    November 16, 2010 at 8:11 am | Report abuse |
  12. Laurel Reginald (UK Animal Rescuer & Rehomer)

    No matter whether you love dogs or hate 'em or think Target should have been microchipped etc etc, the sad fact remains that it was an overzealous shelter employee that made one hell of a mistake and, given the level of publicity and strength of feeling on here, they're just going to have to live with it and take their medicine. The cruel irony of course is not lost on me, in that while the Afghans couldn't succeed in "offing" Target despite numerous attempts (as this report so clearly states) someone in her adopted home of the US – where she should have lived out a safe & peaceful life – manages to do it at the first attempt! God Almighty, don't you just LOVE the human race! We need some soddin' help don't we, if only to protect ourselves FROM ourselves, let alone the animals that are unlucky enough – in so very many cases – to walk through our lives when WE are so fortunate that they choose to do so? Anyway speaking as a dog-lover and animal escuer from the UK, I'm not ashamed to send via this forum my condolences to Army Sgt Young & his family who've had to deal with this tragic mistake. And RIP Target girl – you are, finally, safe now.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Houston

      Thank you, Laurel R. You have quite correctly said all that needs saying about Target's sad story. I only
      hope that I can serve Target's canine brethren as well as she served our terribly flawed humankind. I
      wish you well in your UK rescue efforts while I continue to try here in Houston. Good luck to you.

      November 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Alex

    Well, the owners should have bought some sort of ID (old fashioned tags or a microchip) for the dog and they should have made sure the yard it lived in was secure. But seriously, how many animal control people seriously walk into work and pick random cages of animals and just start euthanizing away?

    November 16, 2010 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. GINGER51

    Well, from all the comments and posts on this site, I expect there are a lot of people out there who never had and never will have a bond with an animal. Truly sad, this is the only creature that loves unconditionally and has proven by Target will gladly protect those that he or she has bonded with. Being an animal lover, yes it does fall to the owner, whoever he or she may be, to protect those that they chose to take into their home. My only question is, when this dog was brought to the United States, I am sure she was placed in quarantine for at least 30 days. Why wasn't she automatically
    microchipped? This was a tragic string of events that lead to the death of this honored canine. Mistakes were made by all those involved. My heart goes out to the family. I'll reserve my sympathy for the worker that did this. They will have to live with this.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:20 am | Report abuse |
  15. PARROT

    WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT FROM NAZI-ZONA??.....JOE ARPAIO HAS THE WORLD'S LARGEST CONCENTRATION CAMP IN THE FREE WORLD, HIS TENT CITY.....BROWN SKINNED PEOPLE ARE ARRESTED AND HARASSED IN PHOENIX.....ENTIRE FAMILIES ARE JAILED IN COW BARNS, HANDCUFFED AND DUMPED IN THE SONORA DESERT....WHAT ELSE DO YOU EXPECT? POOR DOGGIE !!

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

      ARIZONA IS NOT SO BAD. WE HAVE A CAPS LOCK RESERVATION FOR PEOPLE WHO TYPE IN ALL-CAPS. I HAD JELLO TODAY.

      November 16, 2010 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
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