A dog who saved dozens of soldiers in Afghanistan and even found her way onto the Oprah Show was mistakenly killed this weekend at an Arizona pound.
Target and two other dogs befriended by an Army unit at a base on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border alerted soldiers to a suicide bomber who had walked onto the compound. The dogs blocked the bomber from a building holding dozens of soldiers before he detonated the explosive. The blast injured five soldiers but only killed the bomber and one dog.
Target survived and was reunited with Army Sgt. Terry Young, an National Guardsman, in Arizona, where Target lived with Young’s family. Young described how Target saved his and other soldiers’ lives on The Oprah Show in October.
On Friday, Target escaped from Young’s backyard when a gate was accidentally left open. The dog was picked up by a neighbor and taken to Pinal County’s Animal Control’s Casa Grande shelter. When Young went to pick Target up on Monday, the shelter director told him Target had been wrongly euthanized.
“When it comes to euthanizing an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” Ruth Stalter, the county animal control director, said in a statement to the Arizona Republic. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.”
The employee who euthanized Target has been put on paid administrative leave until an investigation into the matter is completed, a county spokesman told the Arizona Republic.
“I just can’t believe that something like this would happen to such a good dog,” Young told the Arizona paper.
A key message in this story might be lost if you don’t follow the link to the full article in the Pinal County news. The animal control employee clearly made a mistake, and Target payed the ultimate price for that mistake. This story is all the more tragic because Target was a hero, having saved Soldiers lives in Afghanistan. One of those Soldiers gave Target a new home in the US, a commendable undertaking.
Unfortunately, however, some basic tenets of pet ownership were forgotten. Target had a collar but no tags. Target was not microchipped. These two steps might not have prevented the employee’s mistake but would have provided two extra safety measures for Target. Please do not let Target’s story be forgotten.
Microchip your pets. Unlike ID tags and collars, microchips can’t fall off. Keep the microchip contact information up-to-date. This is especially important for military families who move often and travel with their pets. If implanted at a military veterinary treatment facility, these microchip information updates will often be provided by the company for free to active duty military. There is also an option to include a permanent point of contact in the record, which can be someone’s whose information likely won’t change and who will know how to contact you. Most microchip readers are universal and able to read chips of the major manufacturers. Most animal control, humane society, veterinary clinics/hospitals, etc. have microchip readers and routinely scan animals to attempt to determine their owners and get the animal reunited with their family. As a veterinarian, I am always disappointed when I find an animal who is obviously owned but is lost and not microchipped or otherwise identified.
None of this makes Target’s death any less tragic. My heart goes out to the Young family. The loss of a pet is so heart-wrenching.
Kari Childs, DVM
MAJ, US Army
“The views expressed in this comment are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the US Government.”