This is Government: Eleven Dead Puppies and a Shrug

In late December of 2014 Sarah Landsittel of Orange, Texas arrived at the city’s animal shelter to collect her family pet, an Akita named Roxy, and her eleven pups after being alerted that Animal Control had picked up the dogs hours before. Unfortunately for Sarah, and despite the fact that the city’s Animal Control policy states that strays must be kept at the shelter for a minimum of 72 hours before decisions regarding their futures are made, Roxy and her entire litter had already been euthanized.

“My little girl keeps asking about her,” Sarah says through tears in the KBMT report that broke the story. “It’s like I’m sorry, baby, she’s not coming home.”

The Landsittels' family pet Roxy

The Landsittels' family pet Roxy

It was two days before Christmas when a pair of Animal Control officers were called to the Landsittels’ neighborhood after a property owner complained about animal whines beneath his building. The officers arrived, removed the dogs, and brought them to Orange’s animal shelter. Less than two hours later a beloved family pet and her puppies were gone.

In the comments section below the KBMT report, Sarah’s husband Jacob explained that prior to the incident with Animal Control a large pine tree had fallen and crushed part of their fence, creating a situation where Roxy was able to stray outside the Landsittels’ property. He goes on to say that the family tried for days to remove Roxy from under the building but couldn’t, and that due to work and the insanity of the holidays they just weren’t able to get it done. He further stated that free-roaming dogs are not uncommon in their neighborhood.

As to why Roxy and her pups were under a neighbor’s building in the first place, the reason was addressed by Sarah in a Facebook post. It was raining, she explained, and Roxy was simply protecting her litter.

In a statement from the city, Orange Fire Chief David Frenzel—the man who’s supervised the animal shelter for the past twenty years—said: “City policy was not followed…We apologize to the owner of the animals…We’re doing what we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again in the future.”

The story was picked up by the area’s largest newspaper, the Beaumont Enterprise, and in a January 22 article Chief Frenzel stressed that the two Animal Control officers who euthanized the Landsittels’ pets were dedicated workers who simply “made an error in judgment.” He said the employees had been disciplined but that both would keep their jobs. When pressed about the manner of disciplinary action taken Chief Frenzel declined to comment, citing “personnel information confidentiality.”

The chief made sure to add that, while he felt bad about what happened to Roxy and the pups, there just wasn’t anything else to be done about it going forward.

And that’s it. The Landsittels are exploring their legal options and a petition has been started to have the two employees fired, but as far as the city is concerned the matter has been resolved.

A NON-RESPONSIVE SYSTEM

The tragedy that befell Roxy and her puppies, and the indefinite position in which the Landsittels now find themselves, highlights a core aspect of our system of government. And that is, that those members of society who cash government paychecks—be they Animal Control officers or United States senators—have virtually zero accountability to the rest of us.

It’s no secret that public sector workers, on average, receive higher salaries, better benefits, and far greater job security than their private sector counterparts. And there is, of course, logic behind this. By making the prospect of governmental employment so attractive, the demand for the limited supply of jobs (though not so limited these days, it seems) goes up. And once such a cushy position is landed, the individual naturally wants to hang onto it. Thus, government workers are highly incentivized to defend the system that provides their livelihood.

And while the financial side of this arrangement is easy enough to grasp, the job security angle is a bit more complex. But it essentially boils down to the fact that because government employees are so confident they won’t get fired, they have very little reason—again, incentive—to do a good job. Honestly…why go the extra mile when going the extra mile nets you the same reward as napping in the break room?

Inevitably, some would point to voting as a check against government abuse and incompetence. That electing a candidate somehow makes that candidate accountable to a constituency, and that once in power the elected official is obligated to see to it that the government employees under his watch have nothing but the public good at heart. This is comical, especially given the fact that the notion of politicians being loyal to their campaign contributors alone is practically mainstream in today’s society.

I would concede, however, that the voting argument has at least some merit when applied to the local level, where voters get to interact with those they put into office on a day-to-day basis. In such a situation, true accountability may in fact be attainable. And if that’s how you choose to run things, then more power to you. But at the same time, I would argue that in such a situation the act of voting would be unnecessary, because the positions of elected authority themselves would be unnecessary. Think about it. If everyone is truly on equal footing, such as on the local level where folks literally see eye to eye daily, then there’s no need for one individual to reign over another as an “official.”

NO REMEDY

Ultimately, the sad truth about the Landsittels’ predicament is that Chief Frenzel is right. There really is nothing that can be done. A family’s cherished pet is gone, and no amount of governmental apologies or conciliatory gestures can bring the animal back. Not that the city of Orange is offering any type of compensation for the Landsittels’ loss, and that’s the point. The city is offering no reparations because the city doesn’t feel it has to.

In fact, forget reparations. The city won’t even disclose the type of disciplinary action taken against the two of its employees who decided snuffing out the lives of eleven puppies and their mother was preferable to waiting the 72 hours that policy demands. In the place of even that small gesture of recompense, the Landsittels instead get a government man who simply shrugs and says they’ll try to do better next time.

Which is to be expected. Remember, government has a vested interest in the promise of job security for its workers. It must tread carefully when it comes to disciplining its own. If governments suddenly began axing every low-level shlubb who broke a family’s heart, they might soon find it difficult to fill positions with the loyal minions needed to prop up the system. And that would put the gravy train at risk for the higher-ups. Clearly, this will not do.

The Landsittels are planning on getting another Akita. In a sane world the city of Orange would offer to pay whatever costs accompanied that process. The city won’t, of course, and it wouldn’t actually change anything if it did. Because, very simply, the Landsittels feel an irreparable injustice was done. And to anyone looking at what happened to Roxy (except maybe those who are drawing a government check) it’s absurd to deny they’re right.