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. effelbee

    Awfully sad and tragic. The only lesson besides the sense of outrage over her euthanasia is that there is also no excuse for not licensing the dog. If we expect to possess them, we need to identify them.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Adam


    Imagine how that employee feels ::>[

    That person prolly doesnt feels anything at all as he/she did not follow procedures at all.
    I guess he/she is more worried about a court case coming up in which he/she will have to pay loads of money.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Wzrd1

      I imagine that the employee feels unemployed during a great depression.
      I hope the shelter informs the state employment agency, when the worker tries to collect unemployment, that the worker was terminated for cause.

      November 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  3. kbunce

    this is awful. the person that made this "mistake" needs to be punished to the fullest extent, that's like taking a human being off life support by mistake, i see no difference between humans and pets. this is a tragedy and i feel the family should find a way to sue. how tragic.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  4. mblock

    There is no excuse!!! This should NEVER have happened. This precious doggy went through so much and finally found a loving home. What that shelter person did was reprehensible. I hope they do not go unpunished.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:44 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Clyde in Seattle

    Unfortunately this is a common occurence at animal control shelters across the US. If the dog is deemed as not likely to be located by the owner it then becomes more a matter of what is convenient to the animal control officers schedule. The psychology of feeling over worked and caring for animals who are later put down must work a dynamic that I find hard to understand. There are so many cases like this that they don't make the news unless the owner sues or the dog is famous as in this case.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Emily

    @Dog Rescue Network: It's not that the dog was more special, it's that she was only missing TWO DAYS, TOPS & already euthanized. Her family didn't even have TIME to look for her.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:49 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Rick

    This was indeed tragic and a horrible error; but it also shows why you should get your dog chipped! It doesn't cost much, and your dog doesn't even know it's there once it's in. It's a peace of mind thing and will protect your dog from potential mistakes like this! I love my dog and chipped him when he was a pup. Money well spent.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:50 pm | Report abuse |
  8. brooke

    it's such a tragedy that any dogs should be euthanized (except when sick to alleviate suffering), but this is terribly tragic. i just saw target and her owner on oprah last month. she was a special doggie and her owner truly loved her. this story makes me sick. i also feel bad for how the shelter employee who made this mistake must be feeling. you don't work with animals if you don't love them, even if part of your job is performing euthanasia. so incredibly sad.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Reflecting Pool Discourse Blog

    In the first place, "Extermination" Does NOT equal "Euthanasia." Euthanasia is done solely for the benefit of the animal, where the animal is terminally ill AND is suffering immense pain. The idea is that the humane thing to do for a terminally ill animal is to put him to sleep so he does not needlessly suffer, where there is no hope for improvement or recovery. What "Kill Shelters" like this do is call "Extermination." It is done for human convenience, NOT for the animal's benefit. And it should never, ever be called "Euthanasia." This moron accident serves to highlight the critical difference between "Euthanasia" and "Extermination." With true, genuine euthanasia this 'accident' could never have happened.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • William

      Very good point. I must correct me earlier statement. The idiot who murdered this dog should be confined to a bare animal shelter cage for a weekend and then taken out and unceremoniously EXTERMINATED.

      November 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lisa

      I agree 100 percent. I have seen plenty of shelters that have enough room for twice as many cages or more, which would extend the life of the ones in there. They kill them to make room for new ones, that's how I got my cat Riley who is the funniest, cutest, most loving cat anywhere. He was about to be killed because they needed his cage for a new one.. I asked the lady how she could handle doing the "exterminating" and she said it bothered her the first couple of times, but now it's nothing. I wonder when exactly she sold her soul.

      November 15, 2010 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Orange Sunshyne

    What a disgusting story!

    November 15, 2010 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  11. jrm

    Administrative Leave? How about fired for cause – NO UNEMPLOYMENT FOR THIS IDIOT, ONLY PERMANENT INFAMY.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • NA

      I agree. PAID Administrative leave for this lazy murderer is DISGUSTING!

      November 15, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      This dog did more for her country then this idiot human will ever do..... I know which one i'd want to keep

      November 15, 2010 at 10:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • pam

      this is horrible sad. the shelter probably wasn't open over the weekend and the new parent just received the dog. probably didn't have time to microchip him yet. As for death panels, Richard, you are the first idiot to go. There aren't any death panels in the Obama healthplan-just yours. Shame on this employee. Should not in the line of work if he can't be more responsible.

      November 15, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      How can anyone be that stupid? This person needs this on a perment record in the health industry.

      November 15, 2010 at 10:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • C.M.G.

      Richard: Seriously? You seriously believe in the death panel bullsh** that Sarah Palin pulled out of her a** to scare wackjobs just like you? Wow.... You should just burn your voter registration card now.

      November 15, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • woof

      @ Richard,

      Don't be a dick, Dick.

      This is the saddest story I've read in a while. How is it someone with tasked with such a great responsibility could be so careless?

      November 15, 2010 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donna Casey

      the laws for euthanization must be changed immediatelly. The public is not aware that this happens all the time to family pets. And i rescued one dog from the shelter who had a chip that the shelter didnt scan. I rescued another dog actually had a tag with the owners phone number. Please stand up and help the US change legislation for animals pciked up on the street. I would hate the thought of going out of town for the weekend and my housesitter losing my dog and him dead by Monday.

      November 15, 2010 at 11:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      This shelter has to be some kind of government agency. In any normal business they'd just tell the guy to leave and not come back. Only government agencies give away a free paid vacation for screwing up.

      November 16, 2010 at 12:20 am | Report abuse |
    • bob

      you people disgust me. each and EVERY animal at a county shelter WILL be destroyed unless someone comes in to adopt them. the employees mistake could have been simple as seeing that the animal in pen 5 was up for destruction when in reality it was pen 6. something thats probably happened each and every day since the employee had worked there. and you fools are crying like a dog's life is worth more then the humans. suggesting he/she needs to be fired (or worse). get over yourself. it was an accident. accidents happen. if you dont like it then go to your local shelter and adopt and care for each and every animal that gets taken in.

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

      Accidents happen all the time, and of course it should not have happened to Target. But ...... Well, I think i will agree with bob for this one !

      November 16, 2010 at 12:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Ozzi

      Couldn't have said it better.

      RIP Target.

      My condolences to Sgt. Young and his family.

      That employee should have civil charges brought against them. And banned from government employment.

      November 16, 2010 at 1:04 am | Report abuse |
    • Reality

      It's not murder, it's a dog. You guys are acting like this thing had First Amendment rights or something.

      WHEN dogs can read, write, speak, use silverware, and dress themselves, then and only then will I be willing to entertain your silliness. For now, however, I look on you with scorn. Who cares. The Citizen of the United States came home, alive, to his 4 year old son and family. They can adopt another dog, you can't adopt another father.

      November 16, 2010 at 4:02 am | Report abuse |
    • srb

      it amazes me that there are people out there who make a living killing animals. i wouldn't let a person who made their living this way near my family or my dog. There is no amount of money that I would take to do this just once. Wouldn't it be great if there was no one who would do such a job. How do you enjoy life knowing that several days per week you kill animals for a living. I can assure you this type of person really wouldn't think twice about killing anything.

      November 19, 2010 at 9:19 pm | Report abuse |
  12. NA

    I can't believe that this dog's murderer is on PAID leave! Imagine how many dogs are "mistakenly" euthanized. It's disgusting! Maybe Target will bring focus to this irreversible "mistake"...maybe even in death this HEROINE will be a HEROINE and be a voice for all the furries and their human families who didn't have a voice.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • maxp0wer

      Don't you think a person's livelihood, and the welfare of their family is worth more than the life of a dog? Let the investigation be completed before you rush to judgment and call this person a "murderer." Good grief. Yes it's sad, but let's put all the facts in perspective before calling for this person to be fired.

      November 16, 2010 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Herbys

      Huh? You DO realize that this "dog murderer"s job WAS to "murder" dogs. It's what they are paid to do. The fact that he or she killed the wrong dog doesn't make it more of a murder than what these employees have to do every day.

      November 16, 2010 at 1:07 am | Report abuse |
    • Generik

      @Herbys Not everything these guys are paid to do include euthanizing animals.

      @Maxpower – Don't rush to judgement? The director of that particular Animal Control has already stated that procedures were not followed and this dog SHOULD NOT have been destroyed. Facts are fact and this is a travesty. The person that performed the procedure should be fired.

      November 16, 2010 at 1:36 am | Report abuse |
  13. kayaker247

    as a dog owner I'm so sad to hear about this. I'd be devastated if this were my dog. which is why she's micro chipped and wears tags at all times. perhaps there should be criminal charges for not doing your job right when it involves the killing of animals.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      The employeee should be euthanized!!!! To hell with such callous behavior and indifference!!!

      November 16, 2010 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
    • maxp0wer

      Mark, how do you know that the person who did this doesn't feel terrible about making this mistake? Working at an animal shelter must be a hard job. Think about what you are saying. You are calling for the life of a human being over a mistake that resulted in a dead dog. Yes, it is sad, but it's not right for you to be so judgmental of another person without knowing all of the facts.

      November 16, 2010 at 12:21 am | Report abuse |
  14. Sally on Cape Cod


    November 15, 2010 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Donald

      Amen to that

      November 15, 2010 at 10:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • Andrew

      The Afghanistan War couldn't kill this dog, but some idiot did. This is a testament to how dangerous stupidity really is.

      November 16, 2010 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  15. charles

    Let's have some accountability. If you did it, please resign and do some community service for 18 months. You will be re-hired if you state your cause and history accurately.

    November 15, 2010 at 9:58 pm | Report abuse |
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