War hero dog saved soldiers in Afghanistan only to be killed in Arizona: Wrong dog euthanized at Pinal County pound – UPDATE: Employee fired

A dog named Target, who not only survived the war in Afghanistan but also saved soldiers from a suicide bomber, was taken home by her soldier owner to Arizona – only to be killed in the Pinal County pound.

War hero dog Target was mistakenly euthanized in Arizona/Photo courtesy AZ Republic

A Pinal County Animal Care and Control employee euthanized the wrong dog Nov. 15, says a county news release. The employee was placed on paid administrative leave.

Some solace.

Target, a female shepherd mix who gained national recognition and was even featured on the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” was one of three dogs credited with saving the lives of several soldiers, including that of Sgt. Terry Young, The Arizona Republic notes.

Young bonded with the dog – for obvious reasons – and was able to bring her to his home in San Tan Valley in August, where she became part of the family that includes Young’s wife and three children.

All was dandy until the morning of Nov. 12, when Young saw the backyard gate was open and the war-hero dog was gone. She had neither tags nor a microchip. Reports did not note if she had been wearing her usual pink camouflage bandanna.

Young called local media and sent out his own online announcements in a bid to find his missing dog. Target was eventually located at Pinal County pound’s Casa Grande location, where she was taken after a man found her and called animal control.

“She’s in the pound. At least she’s safe,” Young told the Republic.

“When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” the release quotes animal control Director Ruth Stalter. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.”

Young also told the Republic his 4-year-old daughter is having an incredibly hard time with Target’s death. “She’s saying we need to get the poison out of her so she can come home. She can’t grasp the idea that she’s gone.”

Definitely a reminder to keep our pets contained, tagged, microchipped and under close watch at home where they’ll get love and protection – not a deadly needle.

UPDATE 11/23:

Update from Pinal County: Animal Care & Control Employee Terminated

FLORENCE – A Pinal County Animal Care & Control employee was terminated today following an investigation into the accidental euthanasia of a dog on Monday. Pinal County launched an investigation on Monday, on the same day that the dog was euthanized. The dog in question was “Target,” a street dog from Afghanistan who became a lifesaving hero when she thwarted an attack by a suicide bomber. She was later brought to the US by volunteers and private donors to live in San Tan Valley with a soldier’s family.

“We are continuing to look into management practices and procedures at Animal Care & Control to ensure that something like this cannot happen again,” said Lisa Garcia, Assistant County Manager for Health & Human Services

Pinal County is declining to name the individual due to threats made against the employee in online article comments and in telephone calls to the county.


What do you think?

Should the dog’s owner sue?

What’s the worst mistake you’ve made at work?

Has your pet ever gotten away? What happened?


About Rynski

Writer, artist, performer who specializes in the weird, wacky and sometimes creepy. Learn more at ryngargulinski.com.
This entry was posted in Crime, danger, death, gross stuff, life, Pets/animals, Stupidity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

44 Responses to War hero dog saved soldiers in Afghanistan only to be killed in Arizona: Wrong dog euthanized at Pinal County pound – UPDATE: Employee fired

  1. This is not a mistake. This is what happens every day, in our name, with our tax dollars, in kill shelters all over America. It’s an outrage, and it needs to end now.

    • Rynski says:

      hiya salette andrews –
      thinking, HOPING it was an honest mistake is the only thought that keeps me from puking. what a sad, sad story and yes – a total outrage.
      thanks for input. i’m not a fan of kill shelters, either.

      • Chase says:

        I actually know the daughter of the owner of the dog. Her name is Trenedy. I feel so bad for her family. Any blame on the owner is completly unjustified. The dog does have a collar ususally, why it wasnt on at the time is beyond me. 
        PS. I hate to say it but even though this is a tradgedy, the euthnasia should continue, just with better procedure to prevent future incidents. My dog was euthanised in Februrary this year. He was in pain. Alot of it. It would have been wrong to let him suffer.

      • Rynski says:

        hi chase,
        thanks for input – and please pass along a big hug and condolences to trenedy and family.
        also agree euthanasia has its time and place – for pets, like you mentioned, that are in pain and suffering. condolences to you, too, on loss of your dog.
        i’m not a fan of kill shelters, but i don’t think euthanasia is NEVER a viable option – just hopefully not an automatic option or thoughtless decision.
        i wonder what dog was ‘supposed’ to be euthanized, if any, that this ‘wrong dog’ was chosen.
        that said, the lack of spaying and neutering also leads to a massive abundance of unwanted/homeless pets.
        p.s. there have been moments for most dog owners i’ll bet where the collar or tag was off for some reason or another – i wouldn’t blame the family. they have enough grief as it is.

      • Chase, I’m sorry for your loss. My dog was euthanized in March. He was suffering from lymphoma. I agree that euthanasia should continue. Euthanasia literally means “good death.” It should be used only in cases of irremediable suffering or irremediable aggression. But what happened to Target was not euthanasia. Target was killed. What happens to four million dogs and cats in American pounds each year is killing. It’s not euthanasia. Shelters that have implemented a no-kill philosophy euthanize less than 10% of the animals they take in, and always because of irremediable suffering or irremediable aggression. See http://www.nokilladvocacycenter.org.

  2. brandon says:

    the owner should sue.  you just done accidently kill the wrong pet.  in this case this animal is like a humane being what if that was a humane and a doctor accidently gave the wrong patient a shot or something like that and the patient did not survive what do you think would happen then.  i would do more than sue if this were to happen to any of my animals but thats just me. sorry about the bad news my deepest regrets.

    • Rynski says:

      hey brandon,
      thanks for comment – i’m with you – sue, sue, sue.
      only thing is NOTHING will bring dog back – and yes, dogs are def. members of family. i cannot even imagine such a thing happened to one of my ‘children.’

  3. This saddens me so much . I have so much to say but will do that when I have taken this in. I would like to send my deepest sympathy to the soliders who lost this wonderful friend .

  4. leftfield says:

    This is vary tragic for everyone involved, not the least for the dog.  I’m sure the person who made the mistake is having some trouble dealing with the issue.  I’m also sure that this is somebody who is not a trained professional and someone who is maybe making eight bucks an hour.

    Animal Control is not high on the list of priorities for governments to fund in the face of increasing cries of “Taxed Enough Already”?  It’s always easiest to cut the budgets of organizations that serve a voiceless population; those that can’t show up at the County Board meetings; usually animals, the homeless, children, etc. 

    I’m afraid that given the magnitude of the problem, shelters that euthanize animals are here to stay for a while.  Outside of their own pets and outside of those groups dedicated to animal/pet issues, this society doesn’t place much priority on those lives.    Imagine the stink if pet care or an ethics class in animal welfare were required in the local public school.  How hard is it for any idiot to adopt a pet?  Not much harder than it is for any idiot to have a child.  

    • Rynski says:

      as always, leftfield, you bring up some very interesting points to ponder and some very good points – esp. the last part about the ease at which ‘any idiot’ can either adopt a pet, have children, or both.
      thanks for comments.

    • I’m not sure about Pinal County, but I used to run the numbers for Pima County all the time. Just look up the annual budget for animal control and divide by the number of animals they handle. They get several hundred tax dollars per animal, whether they kill them or adopt them out. No-kill shelters use volunteers to get the animals out into the community seven days per week in places like PETsMART. They could be saving these animals for the same tax dollars they’re spending to kill them.

  5. tiponeill says:

    Satan has a tag on his collar that lists my address, phone number, and email address.
    If your dog doesn’t have this, then you are not a responsible pet owner.

  6. azmouse says:

    I had a similar thing happen, but I was lucky to have a happy ending. Someone had opened one of my gates in my backyard a while back. Luckily Barnaby just stayed in the yard, but Tibet ran off. She had tags and a chip and we were reunited within an hour or so, but it was the worst hour of my life.
    Hard way to learn to padlock all the gates.

    I feel horrible for all involved in this tragedy. 

  7. 1earthling says:

    I’m just visiting your beautiful state of Arizona, and I know that several states do have shelters that euthanize animals all the time, and no I don’t agree that a healthy animal should be put down for any reason.
    I can understand how several animals could not have micro-chips, tags, and collars on… it happens. In this case the gate was open, in many other cases people are “dropping” the animals off  in hopes that someone will take them in when they can’t afford to care for them anymore… not realizing they may end up dead on the side of the road or in a shelter that euthanize s animals.
    I feel sorry for everyone involved, but what I don’t understand is that the person who made the mistake was on “paid administration leave”  and especially since  further down the article the Control Director admits that the policy was not followed in euthanize cases.
    What it comes down to people is that every person needs to make an honest effort in not calling animal control unless the animal in question is “visibly”  in distress.  If the animal isn’t foaming at the mouth, rib showing thin, growling, etc DON’T call animal control.  The shelters also NEED to change their policies of euthization and who can preform them.

  8. kathyl says:

    This is a terrible tragedy.  My heart bleeds.  Regarding dogs getting out of yards, it happens all the time.  A good story is that our next door neighbor’s dogs managed to open the gate and take a little hike – about three miles.  A Yavapai county deputy found the dogs, read their tags, and brought them home.  The owner’s weren’t home, so the deputy came to my house to see if I knew where the dogs belonged.  It was great to see the deputy with two big happy dogs bouncing around in his back seat.   His cue was the animals were so well kept and happy that he knew they belonged to good people.  Bless that man’s heart.

  9. Bob Miller says:

    In my opinion the employee should be euthanized!!!!!

  10. John Kennedy says:

    Tragedy, yes of course. But shelters are run by humans, who make honest mistakes from time to time. I would NEVER sue for a tragic mistake, that’s part of living with humans, stuff happens.
    Sue if it’s malicious, or outright neglect, but not an innocent mistake. Unless you’re perfect.

  11. Pamela says:

    It was my understanding that dogs without tags are kept for a shorter time before euthanasia than dogs with licenses. It is a sad story, but it is the owner’s fault. If the dog was wearing a license + a tag with the owner’s phone number, the dog would be alive today.

    • Jennifer says:

      Some dogs won’t wear them.  I had a Rottweiler that would go to great lengths to remove her collar and hide it.  This was before micro-chipping was affordable.  Does that make me a bad pet owner?  This could have happened just as easily to me.
      This is so tragic and breaks my heart.  My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of this wonderful dog.

  12. fraser007 says:

    Perhaps it was not a mistake. They just say that because those workers were so darn sloppy and didnt think anybody was going to pick up the dog. Just thinking.
    I feel bad about the poor animal. I hope someone looses their job over this.

  13. Doug says:

    No he shouldnt sue. That would take more money away from the shelter. The less funds they have, the more animals are going to get the needle.

    Its sad that the dog didnt have a collar, or a chip. Its a mistake you only make once.

    Sgt. Terry Young already has a lot to deal with. I feel for him.

  14. Alan in Kent WA says:

    We keep a tag with phone number on Shadow, the Giant Gray Cat.

  15. leftfield says:

    Chickens don’t need tags, microchips, licensing, neutering or dental care (no teeth).  Best pet on the planet.   

  16. Sickened says:

    The state of Arizona is just hopeless. Just completely without hope. Not one damn thing worth saving.

  17. j says:

    Give them your two cents:
    Pinal County
    Animal Control
    1150 S Eleven Mile Corner Rd
    Casa Grande, AZ 85122
    E-MAIL Director Ruth Stalter: ruth.stalter@pinalcountyaz.gov

  18. joanne bevis says:

    high kill shelters. hmmm.  what can we do about this?  i am so very sorry for the loss of our hero TARGET, and my condolances to the family. She is obviously a sheppard , labbie mix. beautiful girl!  I am so sorry for your loss, it was totally unnecessary and unfortunately it happens  all over the country.  i have 2 rescue labs, one , lacie, who was due to be destroyed the day before i adopted her, from indianna.  The other, emma, was bred and bred and let go, and hit by a car, and rescued by a passing motorist, no tags, no collar. she was put in the care of Lucky Labs Rescue and Adoption, in Indianna . major surgery,  her hip has a false joint , but i adopted her anyhow. She is a joy , has  a bit of handicap, but what a great dog. And soooo , people.  believe that this kind of stuff happens every day all the time. Great dogs are euthanised all the time,  especially ones who look labby, like Target does. I have 2 great dogs that were saved by the grace of GOD, and a whole crew of people who care.  This SAD SAD  STORY, is typical of  millions of  great dogs. Maybe from this TRAGIC ENDING, will come about   a NEW AWARENESS for dogs in SHELTERS ACROSS THE COUNTRY.   PEACE TO TARGET, MAY YOU CROSS RAINBOW BRIDGE KNOWING YOU WERE AN EXCEPTIONALLY LOVED DOG, NOW ACROSS AMERICA,  GOOD GIRL!  YOU DID YOUR JOB WELL!  U.S.A LOVES AND GRIEVES YOU AND GRIEVES FOR YOUR BELOVED FAMILY.  :((((((   p.s. dogs do get loose by accident, and sometime on purpose . All keep your eyes open and help a lost dog, or take it in to your homes,  awareess and non ignorance is the best remedy, and of course , love in your heart for all animals in need.

  19. Andrea says:

    I remember when I initially read the story of Target being brought over to the U.S. I cried tears (of happiness). This was such an act of love by those three dogs. I CAN NOT fathom the stupidity that allowed this to happen. I don’t even know that a lawsuit would make this better for the family. I guess the only thing that it would accomplish would be to open some eyes at that shelter.

    This is equivalent to having a family member killed in my book. I hope that the employees of the shelter live with the guilt of what they took, every day, for the rest of their lives. Not only from the family, but from everyone whose life Target touched.

  20. Donna says:

    First of all, my heart goes out to theYoung family regarding the tragic incident of Target.  Now, to bring a stray dog in off the streets, knowing it was a friendly, harmless, non-agressive canine, and to euthanize it within days of being brought into the animal control center? This is absolutely so despicable and inhumane.  To accidentally kill the dog? I’m sorry, that pathetic and the employee should definitely have to serve some type of punishment in this situation!  There is no possible excuse for any center, and the employees, to euthanize an animal within a few days of being brought in.  You can’t tell me that someone mistakenly did so.  If this is the way that the Pinal County system works, it’s just disgusting.  Here’s a thought, when someone is brought in to jail due to a domestic violence situation or a traffic citation, does this person end up euthanized after a few days because there is no longer any cells available?  WOW! Unbelievable!  I hope this haunts the Pinal County animal control and the ignorant person that made the “accidental” decision!  Certainly, some type of consequence should occur.

  21. DesertRatfromToledo says:

    This really upset me when I first read about it.  I believe it happens all the time.  Once the pet is euthanized it is extremely difficult to find out if your pet was ever at the shelter if there are no tags and a chip wasn’t found (they are not always scanned for correctly). One of the major ways to reduce euthanasia of pets is to demand every shelter institute a comprehensive program to reunite people with their lost pets.  Virtually no effort is made by most shelters to do so.  I recently read of a public shelter (I think it was in Texas) that started a comprehensive program to do this and reduced their euthanasia rate by an astounding amount.  I wish I remembered the exact details, but it became apparent to me that there is so much more we can do.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot either.  The costs would be offset by shortening the time a pet stays at the shelter and the costs of euthanization.  I have no confidence that PACC does not make similar mistakes.  Even though my dogs have tags and microchips, when one of them got lost I went to PACC every day and did not wait for them to contact me.   I am involved in dog rescue and have heard too many stories of chips not getting scanned or of the registry being unable to reach the owner.  Collars and tags get lost.  Don’t think your pet is safe because your dog has tags and a microchip.

  22. I don’t blame the owner, I blame the idiot who put her under and Arizona for no “clear cut guidelines”. This has bottom of the barrell government employee written all over it. When are people going to start using their damn heads. I would love to know what avenues were exhausted by the employee to track down the owner. I bet there were none, just tag’em and bag’em on your 9-5 and collect the check. Disgusting.

  23. Maggie Cervantes says:

    The owner should sue and should win. Killed within three days of being put in the shelter? Are you kidding me? The employee who made this ‘error’ should be fired, as should the shelter manager.  What is wrong with people?! Especially in Arizona. Sheesh. So glad I don’t live there.

    And the man who picked up the dog and took it to the shelter should also realize he had a role to play and shelters are NOT to be trusted. How  naive he was! Idiots, all.

  24. dewey ratcliff says:

    this is a real tragedy i know that the family is hurting bad but so are the soldiers that this pup saved this was more than a pet she was a COMBAT VETARN and that should never be forgotten and as for the employee suspended with pay u got to be kidding me fired,fired,fired is the only right thing to do

  25. Linda says:

    I ran a “no-kill” shelter for years and that is just a lie.  Believe me, they kill but just hide the fact.
    We have  a beagle who hunts rabbits.  His life revolves around running rabbits.  We have 54,000 acres surrounding us where he can run to his heart’s content and has done so for years.  A few years ago he was picked up by some “granolas” who thought it was cruel to let a dog run free in the wilderness.  They took him home and, according to their own words, “lost” his collar and couldn’t remember the name and phone number and location on it.  It took us 3 months to track the dog down and get him back home.

    He’s back running free when hunting seasons are safe for him to run.  He is going on 12 and blind in one eye, tired and just as loyal to coming home as he’s ever been when he hasn’t had humans interfering with his games.  You would think that with the amount of territory he has to roam he would be safe from dognappers 24/7 but he is proof that safety doesn’t exist no matter where they are.

    While I was running the UVHS I would never have allowed an employee to have the final say on euthanasia of any animal.  If a shelter is too large to have managerial hands on with the animals, it is just that……too large.  Better to have more shelters than one shelter that doesn’t know what is going on with the animals.

  26. Liz says:

    This is a very sad story. Poor Target and bless her heart for serving in Iraq. Unfortunately animal shelters are so over crowded that some feel euthanasia is the only way to go. We should all spread the word and encourage our friends and neighbors to not only tag or microchip their pets but to SPAY AND NUETER. That is the only way to ensure our local shelters won’t get over crowded.

  27. pamela says:

    Poor Target made the NY Times. I didn’t realize she and another hero dog were strays from the streets of Afghanistan. Poor puppy. 😦

  28. Sheri K-9 Mom says:

    Some reports are inaccurate….firstly, I called the shelter where target was killed…they confirmed to me that, in fact, she did have a collar, but no tags or medals….secondly, this was not a military working dog, but a local, afghani dog that saved soldiers lives….the soldiers that she trusted and was willing to give her life to save theirs……and for it all to come to such a horrible, tragic end…
    I would also like to recognize those organizations, such as HSUS International, who do all they can, risking their lives, to bring these battle buddies home….the comfort they bring to our men and women in uniform, who are in the midst of a horrible war, is heartwarming….oh, just so you know, it is against regulations to befriend a local dog or cat while in Afghanistan or Iraq…..as a matter of fact, the government has contractors to kill these animals….outraged yet?

  29. Sheri K-9 Mom says:

    I would like to add my condolences to the family, especially the young children, who do not understand how this family member, who saved daddy’s life, is now in heaven when she should be in her loving, forever home, getting her tail and ears pulled…..God Bless you, Target….

  30. jeanette says:


  31. streetfacts says:

    As long as there is indescreminate breeding, unchipped and unlicensed  feral dogs and cats that are  not spayed or neutered  our pets will be killed.

  32. Michels says:

    I still do not understand why a neighbor would go to the trouble of putting a dog that is obviously well-trained and cared for in his/her yard, THEN call Animal Control?? Having a collar on your dog does not mean that your dog will be spared Target’s fate nor does a micro-chip. The Animal Control employee needs to be fired and the director of the facility needs to be fired.  There is no reason that a obviously well-trained and cared for animal would be euthanized within 72 hours. There are no excuses….budgetary or otherwise.

  33. tiffani says:

    i totally  think the owner should sue! it is ridiculous the dog was only missing 3 days and put to sleep by some some freak who didn’t follow procedures and probably just wanted to kill a dog and he is on paid leave?! why?!!! he should be fired and charged with animal cruelty. just because you work at a shelter doesn’t mean you can kill an innocent pet after just 3 days

    tiffani from casa grande

  34. fraser007 says:

    Probably the only blogsite where I agree with all the comments.

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