A dog named Target that lived through explosions in war-torn Afghanistan could not survive a brief stay at an Arizona animal shelter.
An unidentified employee at the Pinal County facility was placed on administrative leave after putting the female Alsatian to sleep by mistake, county Animal Care and Control officials said.
“When it comes to euthanising an animal, there are some clear-cut procedures to follow,” Ruth Stalter, the county animal control director, said in a statement. “Based on my preliminary investigation, our employee did not follow those procedures.”
Sgt Terry Young, the owner of the dog, told The Arizona Republic: “I just can’t believe that something like this would happen to such a good dog.”
Target frightened a suicide bomber inside a military base and potentially saved dozens of soldiers’ lives, Sgt Young said. He said the dog was treated like royalty from then on at the base at Dand Patan, near the Pakistan border.
Sgt Young brought Target to the San Tan Valley area southeast of Phoenix in August, when he returned home from his tour of duty.
The dog escaped from the family’s back garden on Friday. Sgt Young put out online notices and contacted TV stations that carried reports on the missing hero dog.
A neighbour found Target wandering later on Friday, put her in his back garden and called animal rescue services. The dog did not have a microchip or tag.
On Friday night, Sgt Young found Target’s picture on a website used by Pinal County’s dog catchers to help owners track lost pets. He thought the shelter was closed for the night and weekend. He arrived at the shelter in Casa Grande to claim his dog on Monday, only to find out she was dead.
County officials said the employee mistakenly took the dog out of its pen on Monday morning and put it to sleep.