Hero dog accidentally euthanized

Target — a dog credited with saving soldiers lives in Afghanistan, and brought to the U.S. by one of them — was accidentally euthanized yesterday at an Arizona animal shelter.

Target’s owner, Sgt. Terry Young, found out his dog had been killed when he showed up at the shelter to claim her.

The dog had escaped from his backyard over the weekend.

“When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” Ruth Stalter, Pinal County animal-control director, said in a statement. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.” 

The county is investigating the accidental euthanization at its Casa Grande shelter.

In Afghanistan, Target snapped and barked at a suicide bomber, who was trying to enter a building on a military base. The bomber instead set off his bomb in a doorway. Five soldiers were injured, several of whom credited Target with helping save their lives.

“I just can’t believe that something like this would happen to such a good dog,” Young told the Arizona Republic.

When he returned to the U.S., Young brought Target with him to his home in the Phoenix area.

A county spokesman said a shelter employee has been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation.

Young said he found the gate to his backyard open on Friday morning, the day after Veterans Day.

Heather Murphy, a spokeswoman for Pinal County, said Target was found by a nearby resident, who put her in his backyard and called the pound.

Later that night Young saw Target’s picture on a website used by Pinal County’s animal control office, and, assuming the shelter was closed for the weekend, figured she would be safe until he could pick her up Monday.

When he arrived, he filled out some forms and a staff member brought him another dog. Young then showed the employee a picture of his dog. Then he waited for an hour.

According to the Republic, Young saw one worker sobbing. And the director of the shelter told him there had been a mistake.

John Woestendiek

John Woestendiek is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of "Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man's Best Friend."

26 thoughts on “Hero dog accidentally euthanized

  • November 16, 2010 at 10:28 pm

    This is part of the problem with “kill” shelters. Maybe, someday there will be no such thing as “kill shelters”, and things like this will never happen. As it is, however, this sort of thing happens all over this country every day. This is just beyond sad.

  • November 16, 2010 at 10:48 pm

    I hope the worker from the shelter f***ing dies and I wish someone accidentally kills the f***in dumbass who can’t follow directions

  • November 16, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    I’m so sorry to hear this.. I heard about target on the news and oprah I feel terrible for the young family… God bless

  • November 16, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    What kind of idiots do they have working at that place???This is out rageous..Couldn’t they tell that this animal was a pet…So what if he did’t have tags..They could have been lost…This dog had been well cared for and from what I could see didn’t look like your typical stray. When someone does something so stupid as this,why do they always get put on leave with pay?? When a life is at stake there is no room for mistakes.

  • November 16, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Tragic stupidity. This heroic animal went straight to dog heaven for saving men’s lives. Living with the knowledge this beautiful animal was put down with no help at all and separated from his loving human friend forever breaks my heart. This world is a very sad place right now.

  • November 16, 2010 at 11:21 pm

    This disgusts me on so many levels I would not even know where to begin. Did the employee even know how to READ?? I hope the dog’s owners can get some peace, but you should all be ashamed of yourselves and I pity those other poor animals in your care. What a disgrace, unlike anything I’ve seen in a long time… Disgusting

  • November 16, 2010 at 11:24 pm

    Who would be so callous as to expedite a possible pet’s death without knowing if the owner had time to reclaim it? This employee obviously needs to be an Ex!

  • November 16, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    I am outraged by this story. I don’t know how these people work at shelters and kill helpless animals. Most of these animals are not homeless but lost. I hope this serves as a catalyst to change how shelters do things. Frankly I am sick of hearing that there is not enough money or homes. Its just not good enough to justify euthanizing any healthy adoptable animal. Then one who actually had a home. There should be no paid leave that employee should be fired.

  • November 16, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    This just shows how undertrained some of the workers are at shelters. No one really gave a damn if you ask me. That poor dog must have been so bewildered when she died. I hope there’s a god.

  • November 17, 2010 at 1:16 am

    Where do I donate to the legal funds needed to sue this shelter in to oblivion?

  • November 17, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Horrible news, but the good news is, on the other side of the ‘Rainbow Bridge’, this hero will not know anymore war-Target finally knows peace~

  • November 17, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    While tragic, I would not blame the shelter as a whole. Animal Care and Control organizations HAVE to euthanize pets after a very short amount of time in order to create space for more unwanted animals. Here in Chicago if your lost pet isn’t claimed in two days, it goes up for adoption. If it doesn’t find a home in a week, it gets euthanized. If the animal shows even an ounce of aggression or even just sneezes, they are immediately put down. Public shelters just don’t have the resources to keep every animal they get. Private, no-kill shelters have no room and generally do not take in “lost” animals.

    Yes, the employee responsible should be punished, but we don’t know what happened. Did someone put Target in the wrong cage? Did someone accidentally write the wrong date on her slip? It could be as simple a mistake as someone checking the wrong box. Was this employee properly trained? Were they new? There’s lots of variables and, let’s face it, high-volume shelters can’t afford to hem and haw over every animal that gets put down.

  • November 17, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    I think there is no excuse to kill any animal at these shelters. If the animal is sick then get it done by a professional. I think putting the employee on paid leave is wrong the employee should be fired for this mistake. that dog was a hero to our military and deserved better.

  • November 17, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    This is heartbreaking. My family has a 12 year old black lab and I would be incredibly upset if something like this happened to him. Be sure to get your pet a good collar or that chip that allows for identification. The chip kit is on Amazon for under 16 bucks. http://amzn.to/aWyvu4 Really is no reason not to get it done. Poor Target.

  • November 17, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    So the dog escapes over the weekend, the man sees the dogs picture on the shelters website that night (still the weekend) and figures it’s closed over the weekend and will pick the dog up on Monday? Hmmmm wonder how the picture ended up on the web site?

    They must have really loved the dog…

  • November 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    @Greaton: Suing the shelter is going to accomplish one thing- they’re not going to have the resources to take care of their animals. Suing the shelter isn’t going to undo what’s been done; all that can happen at this point is an investigation to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

  • November 17, 2010 at 9:44 pm

    Apparently she wasn’t wearing a collar with an ID tag or didn’t have a microchip? Our dogs have both.

  • November 17, 2010 at 10:32 pm

    Most municipal shelters operate on what I’ll call the “balderdash principle”: Get a dumb volunteer to do the work no paid professional wants, feed her/him balderdash about what their duties are, and then turn them loose. Been there, done that!

  • November 18, 2010 at 12:20 am

    This is just an example of how shelter workers become immune to euthanizing animals; disconnected from their feelings; and lack critical thinking skills that would have resulted in, at the very least, double checking with someone who knew the appropriate policy.

    It is also an example of how shelters pay so poorly that they end up hiring employees with an IQ of an amoeba! This just breaks my heart!

  • November 18, 2010 at 1:04 am

    This is one of the saddest dog stories I’ve read. My girlfriend is a veterinarian who works with dog shelters and she says that it defintely must have been a mistake since the very least amount of time she’s ever heard of holding a dog prior to putting them down is 5 business days (unless they’re badly injured)

  • November 18, 2010 at 10:05 am

    words fail me

  • November 18, 2010 at 11:03 am

    This story has broken many hearts worldwide. Target had an incredible journey and was lucky enough to find a person to love him and for him to love. I believe that God and Target have led all of us to that animal shelter for us to realize that there are other animals that need that same love and care. God bless you Target. My deepest sympathy to Terry Young.

  • November 19, 2010 at 11:53 pm

    I can’t believe people have any sympathy for Terry Young. It’s HIS fault that the dog is dead – Target had no license, no tag and was running free. Furthermore, Young waited an entire weekend before checking with the pound. This was human error…but not the under-paid employee at the pound. It was Young’s fault, pure and simple.

  • November 23, 2010 at 1:35 am

    It looks like lots of mistakes were made. Not having tags on your dog is stupid and not having your dog licensed is illegal but putting a dog down after 3 days is sinful. I have a Yorkshire terrier that can get out of almost any yard as fast as you can blink an eye. I make sure all 3 of my dogs have their ID on and I watch them while they’re outside. I hope Target is up there in heaven with my little dog Joe.

  • March 4, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    I feel just as sorry for the worker who made the mistake as I do for the owner. Those who have commented so far seem to think that this worker’s life is worth less than the dog’s life. Are you saying you’ve never made a mistake with terrible repercussions? Do you think the worker didn’t care, when the article says that they were sobbing? The owner will begin to heal immediately, if he does not become bitter. But the worker will have to shoulder this mistake for years, especially if the public behaves like you people commenting here, and refuses to forgive. Shame on all of you for acting like children.

  • May 19, 2011 at 5:08 am

    And I thought I was the sensible one. Thanks for setting me satrihgt.

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