WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – It has been six months since the Wichita Animal Control Advisory Board asked the Wichita Police Department (WPD) to seek a ban on retail pet sales. The WPD took its report to the Wichita City Council on Tuesday.
People who want the ban see it as a way to shut down avenues for commercial breeding operations sometimes referred to as puppy mills.
Captain Dan East, of WPD Administrative Services, told board members his team has spent a lot of time researching the topic. He says they have met with people for and against the ban and have discussed the issue with the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
East said it also surveyed similar cities along the Interstate 35 corridor, starting in Minnesota and ending in Texas.
Bans, litigation in other cities
He said St. Paul, Minnesota, and Midwest City, Oklahoma, have ordinances against pet retailing. However, Des Moines, Kansas City, Overland Park, Topeka and Oklahoma City do not. In Texas, he said nearly every major city has an ordinance or is working towards one.
The captain said most of the ordinances are very similar, banning the sale of puppies, kittens, dogs and cats. But they also have exceptions, such as adoptions by Humane Societies, animal rescue, and some other non-profit organizations.
East said some cities that have pet retail bans are facing lawsuits. He mentioned Fayetteville, Arkansas and cities in Texas, Florida and New York.
Do bans work?
East said his team also looked into what could happen if Wichita enacted a ban on retail pet sales.
“Is there the potential for these stores to close or for a satellite store to open in a nearby city that doesn’t have a ban?” he said.
He said a ban in Wichita won’t stop stores from conducting a sale in Goddard, Andover, Maize, Park City or another nearby city.
“We know there’s a whole other onion you’re going to open with businesses breaking leases, moving. “There is nothing stopping them from advertising and then selling outside the Wichita city limits.”
East said the WPD has called Texas cities that have bans in place. She said they spoke to stores that advertised the sale of dogs. The stores said they would fix everything, but then send the customer to a store outside the city limits to complete the transaction.
Who watches in puppy mills?
The WPD says the Kansas Department of Agriculture is responsible for inspecting puppies. East said the state has increased funding for the state to have one more inspector and one more investigator to handle inspections and enforcement of pet ranch operations.
“If the puppies are in the state of Kansas, we have no jurisdiction,” he said.
He indicated that the Kansas Department of Agriculture suspended a Sumner County rancher’s license in October. As a result, more than 70 dogs have been rescued.
East said the WPD is not aware of any puppy mills in the Wichita city limits or Sedgwick County.
Board member Mike Hoheisel asked if East thinks people who want the ban have valid concerns.
East said he’s spoken to people on both sides of the issue and said, “I’ll never say never.”
“Pet store owners here would bring their books and say, ‘We don’t get our pets or our animals from puppy mills,'” East said. “We have people who say, ‘Oh, you bought it from a broker.’ And if you look at where that dog is coming from, it could be from the broker side.
Though he said different sides disagreed on whether the city needed a ban, they did agree on one thing.
“There was no doubt about it: nobody could, would tolerate the inhumane or cruel treatment of animals,” he said. “That was common ground, so I think you can build common ground.”
East said the issue appears to be whether government officials should be looking for point of sale, i.e. stores, or point of origin, i.e. farmers.
Ultimately, as cities in other states are facing controversy over their bans and Kansas already has some statewide measures in place, East said the WPD doesn’t believe the city of Wichita should enact a ban.
“We are not opposed to state-level legislation and regulation,” he said.
When Hoheisel asked if there were other options, East said the WPD believes taking it to state lawmakers is the best option. He said there is strength in numbers and suggested the city work with Sedgwick County and other cities before pitching the idea to lawmakers.
“We think the state is best at handling this,” East said.