The Wichita Animal Control Advisory Board will resume community debate on Wednesday on whether to recommend a citywide ban on pet stores selling breeder dogs and cats.
At issue is whether the two Petland stores in Wichita should be allowed to retain their current business model of selling to breeders, which Petland East owner Brad Bockus says accounts for 70% of store sales.
The proposal to reassess pet store practices was brought forward by a community member at the May board meeting, where it sparked heated debate. The Kansas Humane Society and the Wichita Animal Shelter remain at capacity, and some say a citywide ban on retailers selling breeders could help ease the crisis of unwanted pets in the city.
“The important thing to understand about the Animal Control Advisory Council 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 kind of rules we think they should ask the city for, and we can talk to our council members about any policies or ordinances we think they might want to enact. “
Petland is the only local retailer that sells breeder pets. Lt. Derek Purcell, who oversees the Wichita Animal Shelter on behalf of the Wichita Police Department, declined to comment on the store’s business practices.
“As the police service itself, we are completely neutral on this issue. We wouldn’t be for or against what the companies are selling,” Purcell said.
Marlett said he was ready for another heated debate when the board meets on Wednesday afternoon. Whether municipal authorities have the will or the resources to enforce such a ban is another question.
“There are a lot of animal control issues that people are rightly passionate about, and with that passion comes a lot of talk and a lot of angst,” Marlett said. “As a board, we 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 to be that sounding board and talk to our people, but we don’t really have the power. We just have the ability to megaphone someone’s voice.
Possible action by the city
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. 260 other cats and dogs are in their care and will be available in the coming days.
“We are definitely against the sale or breeding of animals for commercial purposes because we deal with 10,000 unwanted animals every year,” Hurst said. “But I don’t think this council-level ban is the right place for this kind of work, and we have several other policies that would save a lot more lives.”
“We could actually adopt policies such as [trap-neuter-release] or mandatory spaying and neutering or fixing our breeding license so we can actually enforce it to deal with the 2,000 unwanted puppies and kittens I get every year.
Some cities have ordinances requiring all cats and dogs within city limits to be neutered or neutered if their owner does not have a breeding license. Hurst said such a policy would go further in addressing the underlying issues that contribute to pet dumping and overcrowded shelters.
A citywide ban like the one before the advisory board likely wouldn’t do much to discourage pet stores selling Wichita-area breeders, she said.
“At the very least, it should be at the county level,” Hurst said. “If we banned commercial animal sales – which again, super anti-it – all these stores are just going to go into our suburbs and so what did we do?”
Bockus, the owner of Petland East, said every breeder he works with who has more than four females must be licensed by the US Department of Agriculture.
“Our owners, sales managers and kennel managers travel nationwide to personally visit our breeders, so we know what and who we’re supporting,” Bockus said. “We also invite our consultant vet to join us on these visits, so she can see for herself where our pups are coming from.”
He said a ban on selling to breeders would threaten to put Petland out of business.
You can’t deprive yourself of a big chunk of our sales and expect us to survive,” Bockus said.
“Our store is built and operated with significant investment in the kennels, facilities and systems that make it possible to have puppies in the store.”
There are approximately 100 Petland stores across the country. The U.S. Humane Society has been highly critical of the franchise’s breeding practices, writing in a 2022 report that 11 of the “puppy mill” breeders appear on their annual list of “Horrible Hundred” breeders have sold to Petland stores.
According to the Humane Society, seven of the nation’s 100 worst animal dealers have breeding operations in Kansas. Missouri had the most offenders on the list of any state – 26.
A breeding operation linked to one of these dealers was sold to a Wichita Petland store in 2018, according to the report. The breeding is linked to Kevin Beauchamp, president of the Missouri Pet Breeders Association, who revoked his USDA license in 2017 after incurring a fine.
Two apparent de Beauchamp family members with the same last name and address remain under USDA license.
“In 2018, Linda Beauchamp shipped at least one puppy to a Petland store in Wichita, Kansas, even though Petland claims to only buy from USDA breeders with no significant violations,” the Humane Society report states. “Since the USDA allows Linda and Jerry Beauchamp to the same address as Kevin, the operation can continue to sell to pet stores while concealing its history of problems.”
“Linda Beauchamp has both USDA and Missouri-specific inspection reports,” Bockus said.
He said Petland only partners with breeders who have had no violations during their last USDA inspection regarding the veterinary care of animals on their property.
“Each customer will receive a copy of their puppy’s breeder’s most recent USDA inspection,” Bockus said. “Each out-of-state breeder is also licensed and regulated by their own state.”
Hurst, the president of the Humane Society, said it was irresponsible to buy from a breeder when there were so many unwanted animals available for adoption.
“I plead with the public not to support breeding animals of any kind, whether it’s a private individual or a pet store,” Hurst said. “We have 10,000 animals at risk in Wichita alone, and by participating in any type of breeding or buying animals (from breeders), you are compounding the problem.”
Hurst cut the standard’s adoption fee by $180 in an effort to make more room for human society, which she says remains at a “breaking point.”
Right now, all adult dogs are $49 and kittens are $25 with an adoption get one free offer. This weekend, all dogs will have a $25 adoption fee and all animals donated to a home will receive free neutering, microchipping and vaccinations.
The Animal Control Advisory Council meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday inside the Kansas Humane Society.