Animals In Print
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20 November 2010 Issue

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Dogs Save Soldiers Life Then Hero Dog Euthanized By Accident In Arizona Shelter

Sgt. Reunites with Hero Dog

Sgt. Reunites with Hero Dog

(Nov. 15) -- A hero dog who helped save U.S. solders from a suicide bomber in Afghanistan was euthanized today by mistake at an Arizona shelter.

Target, a female shepherd mix, belonged to Sgt. Terry Young, an Army National Guard member, but was picked up as a stray after she slipped out of his yard in the San Tan Valley area southeast of Phoenix over the weekend, the Arizona Republic said.

Target, who was once featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," was taken to the Pinal County Animal Care and Control Shelter in Case Grande.

The agency said a shelter worker mistakenly took Target out of her pen this morning instead of another dog and euthanized her, even though the dog was not scheduled to be put down.

Young told the Arizona Republic he posted online notices and contacted TV stations about his missing dog, and on Monday he went to the shelter to see if she was there. But it was too late.

"I'm an absolute wreck today and it's everything in my power to hold it together for me and my family," Young said in an e-mail to KPHO, Channel 5 news, the local CBS affiliate

"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," he said.

Animal Care and Control Director Ruth Stalter said the shelter employee apparently had failed to follow proper procedure. The worker has been placed on administrative leave while an investigation is conducted.

"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," Staller said in a statement posted on the agency's website

"This is unacceptable and no family should be deprived of their companion because procedures were not followed," Stalter said. "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."

The agency said Target did not have a microchip and was not licensed in the county.

Target was one of three dogs credited with helping to save U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. Soldiers in Young's unit befriended the strays, Target, Sasha and Rufus, who more than repaid the favor on Feb. 11 when an intruder tried to get into the soldiers' barracks.

The dogs began barking and snapping, alerting the soldiers. Unable to get inside the barracks, the intruder -- who had 25 pounds of explosives strapped to his body -- blew himself outside. Five soldiers were wounded, but Young and his comrades said the dogs saved many lives.

Sasha was badly injured and had to be put down, but the soldiers were able to bring Rufus and Target to the United States. Target moved in with Young and his family in Arizona. Rufus went to live with Sgt. Christopher Duke in Georgia.

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