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. Garry

    This sad story perfectly illustrates the difference between dogs and humans. The fearless, loving and loyal dog risks its life to save 50 US servicemen, and then is killed by human "covenience" and stupidity. All shelters should be No-Kill Shelters. Then time has come – there is no acceptable excuse.

    November 17, 2010 at 11:20 am | Report abuse |
  2. Tammy

    In these days and times with unemployment being so high, I'm sure we can find someone who can actually read and follow procedure. That dog saved 50 soldiers, and has done more for society than you have.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  3. kado

    Poor Target. I'm sad for her and for her distraught owner. A hero is a hero is a hero. It doesn't matter if you have fur or polka dots. Bless her heart! There is NO reason for an animal shelter to arbitrarily and abruptly euthanize an animal, particularly within days of its arrival. This "shelter" needs to be investigated and the idiot who "pulled the trigger" needs to lose her job. She "thought the dog looked like a mutt". Mutts make some of the worlds greatest pets. That's why some of the worlds best pets come from shelters. What does the "trigger puller" look like? Perhaps SHE should be euthanized.

    November 17, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Report abuse |
  4. d

    I just find it perplexing that a dog that saved US Soldiers lives, managed to live under the worst of conditions and then got
    killed in a animal shelter because of procedural flaws carried out by a employee seems all so unreal. The same can be said about the recent Riverside Officer in CA who did two terms of Service in a foreign hostile nation then became a police officer then gets killed when trying to stop a thief stealing a truck. It comes down to is it more dangerous in America than it is being deployed in a nation at war? Its truly unfortunate for the dog to end in this way when it gave so much and met such a tragic and senseless end.

    November 17, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Mantha

    What a tragic thing this is. Seems like shelters often do stupid things and kill animals without giving the owner a chance to come claim the animal. They need to get a system where by these things do not happen. There needs to be a set time frame as to how long an animal is held to give the owner a chance to come get their animal. No one should have to suffer this kind of loss due to the supidity of the shelter. This is disgusting.

    November 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Li Ran

    This just ruined my year. I'd love to euthanize that incompetent employee.

    November 17, 2010 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Frank

    Words cannot express how heavy my heart is with the loss of Target but I am even more upset at how much anger has been expressed on this page alone. I am a veteran. I am sad. I am not angry. It is unfortunate, and hate will not bring her back. Let's see how we can prevent this from happening again. In my opinion, this page is like a political debate between Rush and Hillary, all the way right versus all the way left with no answers on how to move foward.
    I can barely walk because of my service, I can barely pick up my 4 year old and I ask for nothing from anyone except THINK. Think before you speak. Think before you act. Think before you react. Nobody thinks anymore.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:14 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Bozo

    My mother-in-law got loose in the very same neighborhood. I sure hope she's ok.

    November 17, 2010 at 8:19 pm | Report abuse |
  9. J Cline

    It sounds like there was blame to go around. I would be heartsick to be any one of the responsible parties - the owners who didn't ensure their dog was chipped and tagged, the neighbor who called Animal Control thinking she was a stray, the shelter managers under constant criticism from animal rightists, and certainly the euthanasia tech who made what could only have been a tragic mistake.

    Before you cast the first stone - put yourself in any of their shoes.

    I have had beloved pets, but I never forgot they were animals. Having said that, one of the few things that provokes a physically violent reaction in me is cruelty to children and animals. Yet this was not a cruelty case. In the end, outrage is not justifiable so much as pity.

    November 18, 2010 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
  10. phyrehart

    My heart hurts after hearing this story. I feel for everyone involved. The person who euthanized the poor pup. The owners of the pup. The children who are asking for the poison to be taken out 🙁
    It's a terrible horrible mistake.
    If it had been my dog I would be screaming/crying my heart out because of the pain of the loss.
    One thing comes to mind though. This pup has been through it all.. It was untimely of it's death.... I am grateful though for Trigger going in peace. No pain... does not have to be in pain anymore or scared.
    I've a thought too that maybe of the pups she had that are now in the states maybe one of them will have babies and the family/owner of Trigger could get one those.
    God Bless...

    November 18, 2010 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Vic. Louie

    This is a sad story, my heart goes out to the family. Nothing I can say to bring back this loving dog and hero. I'm sure she is in a happier place now. God bless her.

    November 18, 2010 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jeremy

    All animal shelters in my state have to at least keep the dog 5 business days. This "worker" just probably thought it was another stray that wouldn't be missed. (possibly.....) We had similiar incompetence at our local Animal Shelter that made the newspaper this past year (3 different times). The Shelter was eventually put under the control of the police department. Serious changes need to take place at Pinal County Animal Control. The employee should be <<<< F I R E D!

    November 18, 2010 at 10:27 pm | Report abuse |
  13. steve

    probably a black

    November 19, 2010 at 4:27 am | Report abuse |
  14. Brenda

    I understand people make mistakes, but do you really kill dogs after only a day or 2 of being in the dog kennel. Don't you at least wait like 30 days or so for the owners to try to come for it. That employee was so wrong. That poor poor dog. People like that are working in the worng jobs....

    November 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Hickory

    That idiot worker should be euthanized themselves. Or at minimum fired. How can that mistake happen ?

    November 19, 2010 at 7:09 pm | Report abuse |
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