Wichita’s Animal Control Advisory Board will resume community debate Wednesday on whether to recommend a city-wide ban on pet stores selling dogs and cats from breeders.
At stake is whether Wichita’s two Petland stores should be allowed to keep their current business model of selling from breeders, which Petland east owner Brad Bockus says accounts for 70% of store sales.
The proposal to reevaluate pet store practices was brought by a community member to the board’s May meeting, where it sparked passionate debate. The Kansas Humane Society and Wichita Animal Shelter remain at maximum capacity, and some say a city-wide ban on retailers selling from breeders could help alleviate the crisis of unwanted pets in the city.
“The important thing to understand about the Animal Control Advisory Board is that the ‘advisory’ part is super strong,” District 6 board member Mike Marlett told The Eagle.
“We can only advise the police department on what sort of rules we think they should ask the city for, and we can speak to our council members about what policies or ordinances we think they might want to adopt.”
Petland is the only local retailer that sells companion animals from breeders. Lieutenant Derek Purcell, who supervises the Wichita Animal Shelter on behalf of the Wichita Police Department, declined to weigh in on the store’s business practices.
“As the police department itself, we’re completely neutral on that issue. We wouldn’t come out in support or against what businesses are selling,” Purcell said.
Marlett said he’s prepared for another heated debate when the board meets Wednesday afternoon. Whether city officials have the will or resources to enforce such a ban is a different issue, though.
“There are a lot of animal control issues that people are rightfully very passionate about, and with that passion comes a lot of talking and a lot of angst,” Marlett said. “As a board, we get to deal with a lot of passionate people talking about things we can’t do anything about.”
“Our role is more to listen to what the public has to say and be that sounding board and talk to our people, but we don’t really have any power. We just have the ability to maybe megaphone somebody’s voice.”
Possible city action
Emily Hurst, president of the Kansas Humane Society, said there are now 45 dogs and puppies and 48 cats and kittens available for adoption through the society. Another 260 cats and dogs are in their care and will become available in the next few days.
“We are definitely anti-commercial animal sales or breeding of any kind because we deal with 10,000 unwanted animals every year,” Hurst said. “But I don’t think that this ban at the city council level is the appropriate place for this kind of work, and we’ve got several other policies that would save a lot more lives.
“We could be actually enacting policies like [trap-neuter-release] or mandatory spay and neuter or fixing our breeding license so that we can actually enforce it to deal with the 2,000 unwanted puppies and kittens that I get dropped off at my door every year.”
Some cities have ordinances requiring all cats and dogs within city limits to be spayed or neutered if their owner doesn’t have a breeding license. Hurst said a policy like that would go further towards addressing the underlying issues that contribute to pet dumping and overcrowded shelters.
A city-wide ban like the one before the advisory board likely wouldn’t do much to discourage pet stores selling from breeders in the Wichita area, she said.
“At the very least, it should be at the county level,” Hurst said. “If we banned commercial sales of animals — which again, super anti-that — all those stores are just going to go to our suburbs and then what did we do?”
Bockus, the Petland east owner, said every breeder he works with that has more than four females must be licensed by the US Department of Agriculture.
“Our owners, sales managers, and kennel managers travel all over the country to personally visit our breeders, so we know what and who we are supporting,” Bockus said. “We also invite our consulting veterinarian to join us on these tours, so she can see for herself where our puppies come from.”
He said a ban on selling from breeders would threaten to put Petland out of business.
You cannot take away that much of our sales and expect us to be able to survive,” Bockus said.
“Our store is built and operates with significant investment in kennels, fixtures and systems that support having puppies in the store.”
There are about 100 Petland stores across the country. The US Humane Society has been highly critical of the franchise’s breeder practices, writing in a 2022 report that 11 of the “puppy mill” breeders on their annual “Horrible Hundred” breeders list have sold to Petland stores.
According to the Humane Society, seven of the worst 100 animal dealers in the country have breeding operations in Kansas. Missouri had the most offenders on the list of any state — 26.
A breeding operation with ties to one of those dealers sold to a Wichita Petland store in 2018, the report found. The breeding operation is tied to Kevin Beauchamp, president of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association, who canceled his USDA license in 2017 after incurring a fine.
Two apparent family members of Beauchamp with the same last name and address remain USDA licensed.
“In 2018, Linda Beauchamp shipped at least one puppy to a Petland store in Wichita, Kansas, even though Petland claims to purchase only from USDA breeders with no significant violations,” The Humane Society report states. “Since the USDA licenses Linda and Jerry Beauchamp at the same address as Kevin, the operation can continue to sell to pet stores while concealing its history of issues.”
“Linda Beauchamp has clean USDA and Missouri inspection reports,” Bockus said.
He said Petland only partners with breeders who don’t have any violations on their most recent USDA inspection related to veterinary care of animals on their property.
“Each customer will receive a copy of the most recent USDA inspection from their puppy’s breeder,” Bockus said. “Each out of state breeder is also licensed and regulated by their own state.”
Hurst, the humane society president, said it’s irresponsible to buy from a breeder when there are so many unwanted animals available for adoption.
“I beg the public please not to support breeding animals of any kind, whether it’s an individual or a pet store,” Hurst said. “We have 10,000 animals at risk in Wichita alone, and by participating in any kind of breeding or purchasing of animals (from breeders) you’re adding to the problem.”
Hurst has sliced adoption fees from the standard $180 in an effort to make more room at the human society, which she said remains at a “breaking point.”
Right now, all adult dogs are $49, and kittens are $25 with an adopt one, get one free deal. This weekend, all dogs will have a $25 adoption fee and all animals given a home will receive a free spay/neuter, a microchip and vaccinations.
The Animal Control Advisory Board meets at 4 pm Wednesday inside the Kansas Humane Society.