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. JLind

    So terribly upsetting!!!!! After surviving Afghanistan and coming here, she gets put to sleep by mistakes. How could that happen?????? My heart goes out to the Target's family, especially the child who doesn't understand. I'm an adult and I DON'T FREAKIN' understand. Just awful, awful, awful, awful!

    November 16, 2010 at 12:18 am | Report abuse |
  2. NoGreaterHater

    Can anyone do their job properly anymore? This is so typical in today's world !!!!! Know what you're doing – before doing it !

    November 16, 2010 at 12:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. Dick Hertz

    When it comes to help. You get what you pay for.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Ruth Stalte is a POS

    Ruth Stalter

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

    November 16, 2010 at 12:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa C

      Ruthie dear, I'm glad you are heartsick because you finally had to confront the consequences of your actions face to face and see the harm you do to families and potential adoptive families by arbitrarily killing precious innocent animals just because they didn't find a home fast enough. Of course, it's all a show for the international news. However, if you manage to get past your apathy at throwing the limp lifeless little bodies into the incinerator, maybe you could think up some productive ways of improving your practice. If you'd care for any suggestions, there are many of us here who would be happy to help. You already get our money, shouldn't you care about what we want? You make a farce of words like "Humane" and "Shelter". Explain it to the 4 year old still waiting for Target to come home.

      November 16, 2010 at 1:11 am | Report abuse |
  5. Tommy

    Ha Ha Ha, typical American

    November 16, 2010 at 12:25 am | Report abuse |
  6. Klaark

    I feel bad for the guy who screwed up. He must feel awful. I'm pretty sure less people were howling for Bin Laden's blood after 9/11. Perspective, people. Put yourself in someone else's shoes.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Lisa C

      Klaark, your comment is out of perspective and you have a very short memory. There were HEROES on 9/11 and there were HEROES in Iraq, and there were HEROES in Afghanistan and this dog was one of those HEROES. Just ask the soldiers that played with her every day and the debt they felt they owed her after saving their lives. Could it be that's why so many people are appalled at the negligence of this facility ?

      November 16, 2010 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
  7. Cindy

    In response to "FauxNews":

    You are an idiot. Do you have any idea how many shelters euthanize the wrong pet? Or for that matter, how many shelters do not bother to even scan for microchips??? OR how many ignorant animal control officers shoot dogs for no other reason than they "didn't have time to chase them"??????? Check out or JFB on facebook.

    Not to mention the time and expense it took to get Target over to the United States. I just hope you are not working with or own any pets. How could you be so clueless?

    (This is what I'm responding to, folks:


    Sounds like the owner didn't care about the dog, no license, no collar, and spent the weekend with no one looking for it.
    November 15, 2010 at 10:12 pm "

    November 16, 2010 at 12:30 am | Report abuse |
  8. kimski

    Why wasn't this dog given the chance to be put up for adoption if it was a stray?Az county pounds if its just a mutt in their eyes and isn't a puppy or have that extreme cuteness this is what they do. They got caught. That's why this person is on leave. They will return back to this practice when the hype fades away.Its govt. run and its about a $ not a life Least the azspca. And no kill shelters
    trys and reconnect the animal to a caring home.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:31 am | Report abuse |
    • Jack

      You make an excellent point, kimski. This wonderful dog would have been a perfect candidate (and easily placed) for adoption as a pet, or–given her perfect size, health, and temperament–to be trained as a "companion dog," for which there is always a need. Assuming, that is, that she couldn't have been reunited with her real family within a reasonable time (is a full week too much to ask, for such a wonderful, clean, obviously lost animal?). Granted that shelters are overwhelmed with unwanted animals; but in this case it's clear that both the shelter and the employee were grossly negligent and made little (if any) effort at all. I'm disappointed in the hysterical feces-flinging of so many of the posters here; they seem to fall into 3 categories, none of which is particularly interested in the fate of this poor animal: "It's all the owners' fault for not microchipping the dog!" "It's just a dog, for cryin' out loud!" and "Euthenize the employee!" This dog saved her owner's (and other soldiers') life from a suicide bomber, and deserved better than two days and then a needle. The owner served us honorably in the Army–and he and his little boy ALSO deserve better than these blame-the-victim attacks. And, although I think the shelter employee should lose his/her job (or at least be reassigned to floor-mopping and cage-cleaning duties, with no authority, ever, to euthanize the animals from now on), calls for him/her to be killed (though I understand the rage of those who demand it) are a bit over the top, too.

      November 16, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Buddy

    This is really, really sad! This idiot at the shelter thinks its only a job. I wish criminal charges could be filed against this idiot!

    November 16, 2010 at 12:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Afghanistan couldn't but Animal control can

    inbred gov employee

    November 16, 2010 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  11. Sammy

    The dog didn't have the proper paperwork so was euthanized. My money is on the AZ legislature taking a cue from Animal Control and adding this procedure to their next illegal immigrant crackdown measures.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:42 am | Report abuse |

    The author of this article is part of the problem here, as well, describing the dog as an inanimate object by referring to her as an IT, "...employee mistakenly took the dog out of IT'S pen and euthanized IT". It is time to wake up from this collective cultural coma which perpetuates the notion that our animals are disposable, inanimate possessions.

    The story states that Target, the dog, has been in the states since JULY. That is plenty of time to get THE DOG WHO SAVED YOUR EFFIN' LIFE registered and microchipped. The owner was as negligent as the shelter. To think that THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS were spent on shipping this dog here from Afghanistan, only for the soldier owner to PUNK OUT on a few bucks to register and microchip THE DOG WHO SAVED YOUR LAZY ASS.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:47 am | Report abuse |
    • mkk


      stfu kunt, you shoot any bad guys or smell their fing corpses

      November 16, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  13. brian weaver

    I agree with heather, this is a sad sad case. Every dog deserves a chance to live a full life. The fact that we are even putting dogs that are healthy and have not a thing wrong with them to begin with to sleep is a sad thing. The other dog that had suppose to have been put to sleep.. what about him or her? Every animal deserves a happy healthy life with a owner who will take care of him or her.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:50 am | Report abuse |
  14. Jill Osborne

    Are you kidding me? That tells me this individual should NEVER be employed in an animal rescue setting. This is a horrible tragedy and I hope the family can, perhaps, get one of her puppies. Wow... so sad.

    November 16, 2010 at 12:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Ivy

    I saw Terry Young and Target on Oprah awhile back, and his story and love for the dog touched me so much at the time I was crying. It's easy to play the blame game, but in the end, this is just a really unfortunate situation. My heart goes out to the family! 🙁

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