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.