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. scarlettfyre

    I work in animal rescue. The majority of shelters will keep the dog separated from general population for a few days, then keep the dog for about two weeks so the owner has enough time to search for the dog. As far as licensing the dog, the county's rules state if a dog is impaired and has a certificate of rabies, the licensing fee is waived. For all we know, the license had been waived for Target because he was a veteran. As for chipping, honestly that is pretty much useless. Shelters rarely check for them, and there are so many companies, finding a chip doesn't necessarily mean the shelter will call the right company or even bother trying (most shelters are understaffed and overworked).

    The employee screwed up in a major way, and it makes one wonder how many times a pet had been euthanized because of a "mistake". Animal control is usually closed over the weekends, and it sounds as if the dog's family checked with the shelter on the day the dog died.

    And how dare anyone say "it's just a dog". The dog was a veteran and a well-loved member of the family. This is a horrible tragedy, and I hope the animal control of Pinal county re-evaluates their policy and use more care in euthanising other animals in the future.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
  2. scroo yoo

    I still dont understand how a stray dog can be put down after a week for just being out in public,but it takes up to 10 years to execute CHILD MOLESTERS AND RAPISTS.

    Id rather live in a world of stray dogs and dead pedophiles than this world

    November 16, 2010 at 8:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Michael Houston

      Charlie Manson's still breathin' ain't he. Maybe we could get him transferred to that Arizona dog pound...

      November 17, 2010 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Bubba

    There was a story about a grunt in VietNam who was wounded and fighting two charlies in the bush when what he perceived as the ghost of his childhood German Shepherd leaped out of the undergrowth and attacked them, driving them away. He realized later that it wasn't a ghost but a K9 dog separated from its partner, still on task and fighting. It's unacceptable for this dog to have been captured and killed by Americans.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  4. DebC

    This dog is an Anatolian Shepherd Dog mix. There are many rescue groups for ASDs across the country. The shelter employees need more training in identifying breeds of dogs and working with the rescue groups. Even if his time was up, this should not have happened. Anatolians are fiercely brave and protective of their families. What a loss for this family.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jack

    This happens ALL the time with shelters. They hire the dumbest of the dumb and won't even hire them if they don't know the difference between a pet dog and coyote.

    In the LA County shelter, my friend's dog was MINUTES from being euthanized, dispite his owner being there only hours before and having a microchip that worked. The very large and very clearly purebred Gordon Setter was listed in the computer as a Dalmation. Luckily, a rescue volunteer saw the LA county worker taking the dog to the death chamber and offered to take him, saying he had to have someone looking for him, he had dremilled nails and perfectly clean teeth. The idiots at the county would have just killed the dog- we think out of spite. The workers were mainly black and Hispanic and seemed to get a kick out of abusing the rich white dog owners heart broken over loosing their pets. They liked executing their dogs.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kristen

    This just happened to our dog about a month ago. Must be an epidemic. Our dog had tags and was only at the pound overnight. We weren't allowed to come get her until they opened the next morning. By the time I had arrived, she had "accidentally" been euthanized. It's crazy! They knew we were coming to get her. The Pound Keeper was the one who put her and 7 other dogs down at random that morning. He didn't check their paper work and used a method called a "heart stick." Not to mention, he broke state law. He got a written warning, and we got a warm body.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:32 am | Report abuse |
  7. boogieoogie

    Every dog needs to be microchipped. I have a service dog, who helps me up, and keeps me from falling. It is a bracing dog. He has a microchip. This does not excuse the shelter worker who did not follow procedures, but I do not understand not "chipping" or tattooing that dog, who was a media star. This could have been avoided on so many levels.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:33 am | Report abuse |
  8. JR

    I just moved from AZ. AND the dog system there sucks.
    I volunteered. I took and retrained 26 E list animials adn rehomed them as CGC.
    During his training phase a rehome dog that became my disabled sons therapy dog slipped out the door, got scared by a car horn adn raan. He was returned after a 11 days of posters, bulletins, internet posts. Later after returning from school as an autism dog, he got loose from the respite provider at the park.
    And when my son's behavioaral therapy dog got loose a second time? He was picked up by Maricopa CO.
    And FYI HE WAS CHIPPED ANNNNNND Licensed- but in another county just 5 blocks away.
    The new owners vet had a scanner that picked it up and I had a stolen bulletin out. Even the most well trained animal gets loose. had he been amixed or unpopular breed he would have been euthanized. New owner said he was already E list when she got him! In just 6 days fromn escape! (not all chips scan equal).
    My former Siezure dog-retired when I no longer had the condition or her protections to keep her with me. Had to have a second chip brand installed as did the silly escaper. Some breeds like to run or wander. And accidents happen.
    a lot of assumptions about this guy. Just home from war and recently adopted the animal.... her health came first.
    and I bet teh cold return to civilian life had budget tight. Soldiers that get these dogs are screened becuase the whole platoon usually draws on taking their mascots or saviours home. teh dog prolly was barely out of Quarantine (ever take a dog to hawaii ?) There are a lot of ASS sumtions on teh owner that dont excuse a incompetent employee. Volunteers and cleaners have no say on euthanizing..only UPPER MGT employees. Once again that witch excuses her picked staff. THIS time it made headlines is all!

    November 16, 2010 at 8:37 am | Report abuse |
  9. Travas

    i am currently deployed to afghaniastan nd when i arrived to my fob there was a dog that we called hesco she had rolled out with the infintry unit that was here when we got here and she had alerted them multiple times that they were walking into a ambush. know that they had left and the new unit had taken over they decided to shoot her. that dog had been more of a benafit to saving more lifes then most. may God be with that family.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Regina

      Some people have no soul or conscious… period!

      November 16, 2010 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |

    Since the dog had military ties, I wonder if the Kansas Church Members or Code Pink will be there at the funeral to protest

    November 16, 2010 at 8:40 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dzzzz

    This is the same in shelters all across the Country. HORRIBLE. We need to change the laws on this as a society!

    November 16, 2010 at 8:41 am | Report abuse |
  12. The Dude

    Guilty until Innocent in Arizona, they do not treat humans much better either.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:42 am | Report abuse |
    • Wahh

      At least that dog was worth something unlike the worthless parasites that are infesting our country which Arizona is trying to head off.

      November 16, 2010 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  13. Jack

    Microchips are POINTLESS, most shelters don't have all the different scannersl if your dog has the wrong kind of scanner or the shelter worker is mentally deficient and can't work the scanner, your dog is dead. Tags on the collar help, but more important is simply not letting your dog get out, Shelters are not there to help animals, I'm convinced many people who work there simply enjoy killing animals, especially ones who are part of the family.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:44 am | Report abuse |
  14. ann

    I hope the family can get one of the puppies.
    Sad story.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:47 am | Report abuse |
  15. daily

    Omg, No!!! This is just awful....

    November 16, 2010 at 8:51 am | Report abuse |
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