The Target of Target’s Demise

By now most of you have heard the story of Target, the hero dog originally from Afghanistan who was accidentally euthanized at Pinal County, Arizona's animal control last week in a case of mistaken identity. You may have also heard that the shelter worker who put Target to sleep has since been fired for making the tragic error.


My heart goes out to Target’s family for their loss, this is indeed a sad story, but I’m dismayed to see the shelter and shelter worker cast as the scapegoats or worse, as villains in this tragedy. They did indeed make a terrible, irreversible mistake but the real problem lies much deeper than this single, highly publicized incident.


I’m going to put a few things on the table that I hope will spark discussion we all can learn from so that Target’s tragic end is not in vain.


Target was picked up by animal control as a stray because as a semi-feral dog from a third-world country she was not used to being confined to a back yard.


Target escaped from her yard and was found wandering the streets by a well-meaning neighbor who caught her and put her in his backyard and called animal control. This sad story could have ended right here if Target had been wearing an identification tag. The neighbor would have realized she wasn’t a stray and would have likely called her owner rather than animal control to pick her up, or, if she’d been licensed or microchipped the shelter would have easily been able to contact her owner to pick her up from the shelter rather than classify her as a homeless stray. But Target had no documentation, no tag, no microchip, and no license and therefore became just another “Dog Doe” in a system overrun with unclaimed animals.


Dogs can’t speak for themselves and accidents do happen. A lot of loss and heartache can be avoided by simply making sure dogs are tagged, tattooed, or microchipped.


Another disturbing aspect of this story is how the animal control facility and, more specifically, a shelter worker are both being fully blamed for the incident. Some are even going so far as to suggest that the shelter worker had control issues and actually enjoyed killing dogs, just couldn’t get enough. This sort of character assassination is appalling. I know hundreds and hundreds of shelter workers and none of them relish putting animals to sleep, even on occasions it appears to be the most humane option for an individual.


Municipal animal shelters do the sad, dirty work that most people simply put out of their minds. They take in every, and any animal regardless of the state they’re in and do their best with the resources they’ve got (or, more likely lack of resources) and make heartbreaking decisions on a regular basis regarding animals that others have either damaged or simply thrown away. They do what they can to clean up our society’s mess, albeit often too little, too late, it is far from a perfect system but the responsibility for the mess lies on the shoulders of our government and humankind in general.


The fact that we have over-crowded shelters full of unwanted and sometimes damaged animals, that we have underpaid, overworked, emotionally exhausted, often villainized shelter workers is a symptom of a much larger problem, and not the problem itself.


Make no mistake that the plight of animals is a people problem. From irresponsibility, to ignorance, to cruelty, animals are merely the recipients of the treatment of humans. We, collectively, are to blame. In a world where so many people are suffering, abused, undereducated, marginalized, infighting, battling, over-consuming, and generally just trying to survive with dignity… other animals don’t really stand a chance.


Rest in peace Target and all of the millions of other animals humankind has failed.