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. Me

    I'm not a dog person, but I do have a heart and this story brought tears to my eyes. My heart goes out to the family. Shame on that shelter and shame on the employee for not following proper procedure.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:44 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Ishmael

    I am not much of a lover of dogs, but after hearing what target did for those soldier, my heart broke upon learning what happened to him. Target is more than a hero to me. He could be considered as Balto of the post-modern era. I'm sure the closure of the tragic death of Target would not be short. I send my condolences to the Youngs. Though he was "JUST" a dog, I can't help but grieve for his loss. He is one in a million.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. cindy

    What the hell is going on in that shelter?? That employee should never have been working there in the first place. I'd like to hear that he/she has been fired and charged with a crime.

    November 16, 2010 at 8:51 pm | Report abuse |
  4. skyeyez9

    When I got my two dogs, the first thing I did was make an appointment to get them microchipped and vaccinated the following day. Next was an ID tag engraved with our address and the dogs' names. Why would the owners fail to do this basic safety measure for a dog that saved his life?

    November 16, 2010 at 9:38 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bokono

    many shelters hold dogs too short periods. no excuse to make mistakes. Try to hold dogs longer to wait and see if they reunite with families. Too quick to put dogs sleep is to save money and let others coming into shelters.

    My sympathies go to Young family. Sue animal shelter since you brought dog across sea. expensive expenses. I understand that money can not be replaced for sweet or hero dog.

    November 16, 2010 at 10:25 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Rose Marie Milcetic

    I just read what has happened to the Young family and to their pet Target. My heart feels as though it has stopped. I am so sorry!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Target was a very special dog. I know your pain. Two of my pets passed away this year - one last month and one the month prior. The article mentioned that Target's litter was also brought to the U.S. Is there any chance that you would be able to make one of them your family's new pet or perhaps wait until they mature and have litters of their own. Perhaps then you could have a pet from Target's lineage!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I wish you all the best in the future!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 17, 2010 at 12:03 am | Report abuse |
  7. cat

    Target was recently on an Amazing Animal show on Oprah. That pulled at my heart strings . THIS breaks my heart!!!!!

    November 17, 2010 at 12:05 am | Report abuse |
  8. Rose Marie Milcetic

    I have just read this very sad story and I feel as though my heart has stopped beating. I am so very sorry for the turn of events!!!!!!!!!!!! I feel your pain as I just lost to of my pets to illness within a month of each other. Target was a very special dog, indeed. The article mentions that she had a litter of pups that were also brought to the U.S. Is there any way that your family can adopt one of those pups? If not, perhaps they will have litters one day and you can arrange to adopt one of them so you will have a pet with Target's lineage!!!!!!!!! I wish you and your family the best of luck in the future!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    November 17, 2010 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. Julie

    One good thing that will surely come out of all this is that hopefully shelters everywhere will be less careless when euthanizing. This has brought awareness to an issue that almost certainly would not gotten much attention had it been an ordinary dog. What are the chances ... the planets had to align for this dog's life story to play out like it did. From Afghanistan to Oprah to fatally mistaken as unwanted. Hopefully it has also brought awareness to the need to ID your pet and also to the sad reality of pet overpopulation and how many animals get put down for no reason other than that nobody wants them and there are just too many to expect local shelters to keep them all. I think Target had a bigger purpose here than anyone ever anticipated. Spay, neuter, license and ID, please!

    November 17, 2010 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |
  10. Margroks

    There is no excuse for this happening. That poor dog, who saved our soldiers at great risk to her own life is killed? There is no way to sufficiently punish the idiot who did this. This person should never again work near animals. It's a horrible tragedy. I cry for this brave dog and the people who brought her to this country as a reward for her bravery.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
  11. Lu Ann

    This goes to show what we have working with our animals.this is one of the most tradgic situation. we all can be in this situation so i do believe that every shelter has to screen who they hire to work with animals just like they do for any other job. why is it that animals are not important to alot of people? they are heartless and they should be dealt with the same way that they treat animals. i am so sorry for your lose .. you had a beautiful hero and will be with you always in spirit

    November 17, 2010 at 9:02 am | Report abuse |
  12. dindy Sri lanka

    Dog is man's best friend. They are wise useful animals. I feel sorry for this family who lost this wonderful pet who saved their lives.:(

    November 17, 2010 at 9:15 am | Report abuse |
  13. aimee

    nice job batman...animal shelters care nothing for the animals, in most cases they are like children to those with whom they live and it's devistating when one is lost–Whoever did this needs to be not only fired, but brought up on charges as well-i'm sure the da can creatively come up with something-that's what they do best-and close that dam 'shelter' at the very least-

    November 17, 2010 at 10:48 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lisaspups

    As an animal rescuer and a donor to the cause to get these animals home, I am truly saddened by this story. This should not have happened, but passing judgment is not going to bring this beautiful girl back. Instead, the public needs to be educated regarding apay/neuter programs and shelters need to be provided with the resources necessary to become a "no kill" shelter. Maybe, then, tragedies like this will cease to happen.

    November 17, 2010 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
  15. Glenn L

    this really highlights why it's important for us to volunteer time for animal causes. in some cases, like this, i'm sure the worker is noble for working at the shelter - yet obviously isn't the brightest bulb in the drawer. and who knows the real reason he/she just decided to randomly euthanize a dog that day. the more educated, passionate people who donate real time to these shelters - for the right reasons - the better off the entire mission of these shelters will be.

    November 17, 2010 at 10:58 am | Report abuse |
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