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. D

    Take your stinking paws off me, you d@mn d!rty ape!...oh, wait, sorry. Wrong planet. Seriously, everyone should calm down, step back, take a deep breath and learn something from this sad story. Love each other, as well as our dogs and cats, and stop all the hateful, hurtful talk. It won't bring the poor dog back. For shame.

    November 16, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kim

    I agree with "Boise".... ALL that trouble to bring the dog back and NO microchip, NO tag.... and I guess also no FENCE!!! I do feel for the family though. Something I wonder about is whether they adopted the dog that was intended to be euthanized, or any other dog at the shelter for that matter... IN HONOR OF Target??? Now that would have been an awesome end to a very very tragic story!!!

    November 16, 2010 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Amy

    This breaks my heart. Iam a huge animal lover and i cannot imagine how much this dog ment to the family. Dogs get loose, they loose collars, it happens. My dog of over 12 years jumped the fence while i took a shower to walk with my 2 older kids to school. On her way home, she got hit by a car. Lost a leg. Dogs are not simply just a "Dog" but a family member a beloved love in the lives of the family. Mistakes happen and I pray that something like this never happens again. Procedures should have been carefully in place at that shelter.

    November 16, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Kim

    I do have to add one thing.... my cat was microchipped and the Pinellas County Animal Control in Pinellas County Florida euthanized my cat anyway. They told me that their microchip 'scanner' did not pick up the chip when they scanned it. They were extremely rude to me also, they had no compassion what-so-ever. Very mean people! I bet those animals feel like our ancestors did in the holocaust, like cattle being herded around by mean people who take their anger out on innocent lives without any concern or care. So, if you live in Pinellas County, Florida.... say your goodbye's to your pet everyday because if it gets out and Pinellas County Animal Control gets it, you will probably never see it again!

    November 16, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Nola

    This news just broke my heart!....I have been thinking about it all day! I WISH the owners had licensed and micro-chipped that dog at the time they brought her home...that would have saved her. She was a hero!!!

    November 16, 2010 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Sarah Twining

    I called the Humane Society of the United States to ask if this was one of their shelters. A PR intern said "We don't really run or fund any shelters, we just pretend to in our fundraising letters and TV ads."

    Far too many American animal shelters needlessly kill healthy, adoptable animals every day, often out of sheer laziness, callousness or indifference. There is a real need to hold (taxpayer subsidized) public shelters accountable. The great Nathan Winograd of the No-Kill Advocacy Center has been working on shelter reform legislation and recently helped Delaware to become the first state to pass a progressive shelter law.

    Some shelters want to do it right but are struggling in this economy. Part of the blame for that goes to megawealthy and megawasteful "charities" like the Humane Society of the United States – one of the biggest tax-exempt scams around, unfortunately targetting animal lovers and pet shelters with their nonstop money grabs.

    Very sad all around.

    November 16, 2010 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      I used to work at the HSUS and left because of the fraud, waste and abuse.

      Support progressive shelters. Urge the IRS to investigate the HSUS for excess lobbying and join the campaign to get Wayne Pacelle on Dancing With The Stars.

      RIP, Target.

      November 17, 2010 at 10:21 pm | Report abuse |
  7. jenn

    Give them your two cents:

    Pinal County
    Animal Control
    1150 S Eleven Mile Corner Rd
    Casa Grande, AZ 85122

    E-MAIL Director Ruth Stalter: ruth.stalter@pinalcountyaz.gov

    November 16, 2010 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Chris

    The employee should not only be immediately terminated, but not allowed to work, or even live with and around animals for a long period of time. If that employee owns any animals, they should be forcibly taken away and adopted out. Also, the employee should have to owe some money to the veteran.
    While I recognize that accidents do happen, this accident was completely unacceptable. There should be harsh consequences for negligence.

    November 16, 2010 at 6:33 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Lori

    I'm really sad for the family that lost their dog. Weather the dog had ID or not is not the basis here though. When that dog went missing her face was plastered all over the place. Pretty much everywhere short of a milk carton. The shelter knew that they had their dog. They just mistakenly put down the wrong one. So that was the shelters fault. How stupid can you be? I remember when my cat got loose and I went to the shelter to see if he was there. I got there a little to early, but in time to witness the workers dragging out the dead animals that they killed that day and throwing them in a pile. I just sat there and watched and cried. I couldn't do it. Not for minimum wage and not for millions of dollars.
    I do see that some people started advocating right away to not buy animals from breeders. On short sight I can understand why being as the shelters are filled to the brim with unwanted animals. The fact is, shelters are not filled to the brim with purebred animals. 95% of them are mixed breed dogs and cats. That comes from irresponsible and/or lazy owners that thought it would be nice if Fluffy or Fido had just one litter or just didn't get around to getting the animal fixed. I have two dogs, one a chow lab mix found by me on the street and the other a sheperd mix that I got at the shelter. Both great dogs that I have had for eight years. A lot of people prefer a purebred because of its predictable size, looks and temperament and their is nothing wrong with that. Responsible breeders are not the culprit for overflowing shelters. The last dog I had before the Shep mix came into my life was a purebred standard poodle that I purchased from a reputable breeder and she was a great dog. Smart as a whip, friendly, loved water and beautiful. Just how standard poodles are supposed to be. She was a show quality dog that was sold to me with a contract that she was to be spade because I am not a breeder. People really do need to stop blaming good breeders of purebred animals for the overpopulation problem. Get your pets spayed and neutered. They will make happier pets and the shelters would be virtually empty if everyone did that. Let the people who know what they are doing make the purebreds.
    To the family. I'm really sorry to here what happened to your girl, she deserved better.

    November 16, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jack

    This poor, brave dog was young, healthy, clean, calm, and friendly–just look at the videos of her. That alone should have set off alarm bells in SOMEBODY'S head at the shelter that she was just lost from a loving owner, not a "stray" or feral, and that two lousy days–over a weekend, at that–with apparently little or no effort to take any more time to find and reunite her with her family (or give them much of a chance to find her), was hardly enough time to give her. Yes, shelter overcrowding is a big problem; but let's not be too quick with the needle when there's every reason to believe (as in this case) that that sad outcome and heartbreak for a mourning family can avoided with a little common sense and an extra day's reprieve. And, BTW, yes, I'm signed up as an ASPCA Guardian, with a monthly donation charged to my credit card in support of their programs, so I do put my money where my mouth is.

    November 16, 2010 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Sandy

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your children, to lose a beloved pet is hard enough without losing one this way. Could you get one of Targets pups???

    November 16, 2010 at 7:32 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Lori

    To Cat" you need to re-read the story. The dog was picked up on Sat. and was put down Mon. morning. The article clearly states that the dog was NOT scheduled to be put down. Procedure was NOT followed.

    November 16, 2010 at 7:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • cat

      Lori,
      I did READ the story. My reply was to another poster that did not read the story correctly. I stated the employee was AT FAULT for not following protocol set by the shelter.

      November 17, 2010 at 12:11 am | Report abuse |
  13. Sosa

    I got a deep pain in my chest when I read this, and it took me several minutes to realize,"MY. GOD. A HERO. KILLED. BY AN 'EMPLOYEE'(notice to quotes). I really want to scream in that person's face, and someone needs to make a good tuition for this. May God help this family, and I'll pray

    November 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  14. steve

    we should mistakenly euthanize the shelters workers kids(not literally). Someone owes this family big time. I think the family is taking it all very well. I would be pist off.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Report abuse |
  15. steve

    This is malpractice and the owners should sue the @#$% out of this shelter. If a Doctor accidentally killed the patient because he didn’t take the time to read his chart, he would lose his license and his insurance would be sued to the limit. He should also go to jail!!!!!

    November 16, 2010 at 8:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • mp

      yes.. agreed. sad but true.. and the only time you can actually sue a Dr. and win is in the case of loss of life.. If no life is lost Doctors get away with awful screw ups daily.. I have witnessed this.. I honestly think that Target's owner needs to either file suit against the shelter for gross negligence, or bring a civil suit against the employee.. The only way things will ever change... very sad....

      November 16, 2010 at 9:13 pm | Report abuse |
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