Employee terminated after mistakenly euthanizing soldier's heroic dog

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FLORENCE, Ariz. - A soldier's heroic dog that had been featured on local and national television shows was mistakenly euthanized in Florence.

The dog named Target was recently brought to Phoenix from Afghanistan by a soldier returning home from his tour of duty. Target was featured on "The Oprah Winfrey Show" for heroism after saving soldiers from a suicide bomber.

Pinal County Animal Care and Control received a call Friday about a stray female shepherd-mix dog in the San Tan Valley area. Target had apparently gotten out of the back yard while her owner was at work. She was picked up by animal control and taken to the Pinal County shelter where she stayed over the weekend.

Target was not micro-chipped or licensed with the county, so the shelter had no way to contact her owner.

Target was not scheduled to be put down, but a mix-up by a shelter worker led to the dog's demise. 

"I am heartsick over this," said Animal Care and Control Director Ruth Stalter. "I had to personally deliver the news to the dog's owner and he and his family are understandably distraught. We work had to get strays reunited with their owners."

Officials say the employee did not follow proper procedure in the euthanasia process. An investigation into this incident was conducted.  On Friday, the employee was terminated from the Pinal County Animal Care and Control.

"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.