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. demmie

    "Just to clear the air – they don't "gas" animals – it's an injection that goes directly into the blood and stops the animals heart almost instantly. Try to do research before posting." ----–>>> which is still not humane – the heart stops but the brain doesn't. Pet overpopulation is a terrible, terrible thing that results in the inumane killing of innocent animals. The sheer number of dogs and cats killed each day is a black mark on our the human race's record.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:39 am | Report abuse |
    • killem dead

      We gas as well, do your reseac

      November 16, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
    • demmie

      boy, people are dumb

      November 16, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. S.A.

    This is such a sad story. This problem is not isolated. It happened and continues to happen in San Antonio, TX. These animal shelters need to better train their staff members so this doesn't ever happen again. Also, because of the lack of education/training, these shelters pass the buck to an employee who just thought he was following procedures.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mig

    what a idiot !!!! they should be put to sleep

    November 16, 2010 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  4. pete nichols

    Just doing his job!

    November 16, 2010 at 10:45 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ames Wolff

    Shame about this dog. I hope future actions prevent this kind of horrid mistake in that animal control building. As for the Afghans always trying to kill's no wonder when haadith prescribes that believers view the animal as unclean and impure.

    "Angels do not enter a house wherein there is a dog or an animate picture. (Sahih Bukhari Hadith no. 2986)

    Sorry...I'll take my big, blockhead Lab's slobbery kisses over an angel in my house...anyday!

    November 16, 2010 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  6. Acaraho

    Shame on those of you criticizing this shelter's actions if you have not rescued a pet from a shelter or a rescue group. I've been involved with rescue organizations since 1997. To those of you who are criticizing micro-chipping, you do not understand the benefits nor do you realize the enormity of the problem facing our dog shelters. Often dogs in the shelter for a week or so have to be euthanized to make way for the new arrivals. There just isn't enough room for all the dogs. The biggest problem is that people will still purchase puppies from pet stores and breeders when they should instead look to the dog pounds and rescue groups for adoptable pets. It appears that the owner of this dog was lax both in getting his pet registered and in contacting the local pounds and shelters.

    Instead of criticizing this shelter why don't we all make a pledge to obtain our next pet from a rescue group or a shelter and then make sure it is neutered or spayed. That is the only responsible thing to do.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      AMEN! One of the few intelligent, educated posts I've seen here.

      November 16, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  7. elliemay

    Maybe people should write in and suggest that the employee be fired. It won't bring Target but it may force these "shelters" to hire more qualified people in the future.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:47 am | Report abuse |
    • BRod

      More qualified people?? "Qualified" people don't take jobs in shelters. Only desperate people would accept a job that consists of killing dogs and cats all day long. Shelters are depressing places to work and you will rarely find "quality" employees in those places.

      November 16, 2010 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. JayKay

    Why was the dog running around loose. No collar. No microchip. Young is fully responsible for its whereabouts of her dog and half responsible for it being euthanized. Irresponsible owners such as Young should not be allowed to have pets. I hope she never has another one, she simply doesn't deserve it.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  9. Wayne the Centrist

    Micro chipping agenda?!?! That is one of THE most ridiculous things I've ever heard. Just about every town in the U.S. has a dog licensing law. How did this guy bring a dog from a foriegn country to much fanfare and NOT have his dog licensed and micro-chipped. If you love your pet, you micro-chip it. Failure to do so puts you at risk of this happening. The employee screwed up and killed a war-hero but the owners of the dog did nothing to protect their pet from this happening. Sorry all, but in football terms. Off-setting penalties.

    And again, to everyone with a pet you love, chip it!!!!

    As to most of the posters on here, is it possible to have ONE day where it doesn't become Repubs vs. Demos; Right vs. Left or believer vs. non-believer? Your opinions and posts all suck anyways.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:49 am | Report abuse |
    • Christian

      The probable answer to you question is that the dog was brought in on a military flight to a military base, sent to Arizona to where the soldier lives BEFORE getting proper I.D. and vaccination-govt. sloppiness! (And dogs can get over or through just about any screen door or fence in a residential neighborhood.) With all the media hype, why didn't the shelter have a checklist with photo tacked to the bulletin board???

      November 16, 2010 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  10. annsrum

    If everyone who is on here went and donated to a no-kill shelter, we could help save the lives of many dogs/cats. Every little bit helps!

    November 16, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  11. Scottie

    It is unfortunate the dog was put down by mistake. It is just as unfortunate that the dog was placed in someones care who was not responsible enough to keep it off the streets. Everyone involved here failed in one way or another and as usual someone else (the dog) paid the price.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  12. Wayne the Centrist

    Uggh! Micro chip your pet and something like this doesn't happen. While the employee screwed up. The dogs care-givers certainly share responsibility. A simple chip, which I am CERTAIN these people were offered but turned down could have averted this whole situation.

    Call Bob Barker, have him put together an ad with this story to encourage people to have your pet chipped.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  13. DG

    Why is it that so many people only want to pick one side to blame instead of being realistic? This thread's a microcosm of what's wrong with people in this country these days. Always have to choose sides instead of being rational.

    Let's look at it reasonably: Everyone screwed up, except the dog. The dog did what some dogs do – take herself for a walk. Nothing wrong with that, not her fault. However:

    -The shelter employee did not follow protocol and the dog lost her life.
    -The family didn't have her collar/tag or microchipped (which is really, really cheap these days, cost $12 for my pets)
    -We as a society run out and buy animals or get free ones because we see dog ownership as a right and not a privilege, and then get sick of them or realize we were ill-prepared to care for them, they end up in shelters, which end up overcrowded, which leads to euthanasia in the first place. Or we don't spay/neuter because we think we're on the level of reputable breeders with years of experience and . . . well, same thing.

    This story just goes to show that your past doesn't matter at the end of a euthanasia needle, and there are several ways that dog's life could have been saved. Through a responsible employee, through owner vigilance, or through all of us . . . didn't have to be that way.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
  14. Rules is rules

    Man, Arizona has some very strict laws against all illegal aliens, even the four legged ones...

    November 16, 2010 at 11:00 am | Report abuse |
  15. Mirna

    The truly tragic issue is that this happens all the time and nothing is done. It is always the same answer sorry we made a mistake. I wonder if the mistake was to be made to a human, would a sorry be enough.
    The only good thing is that this sad and extremely mistake will maybe NOW get the attention it needs.
    IT HAPPENS ALL THE TIME JUST BECAUSE THIS WAS A “SPECIAL DOG” they are making a big deal about it. But remember ALL dogs, cats, etc, are special to someone.

    Sgt. Terry Young and family, I truly so sorry for your loss.

    November 16, 2010 at 11:03 am | Report abuse |
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