WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — It has been six months since the Wichita Animal Control Advisory Board asked the Wichita Police Department (WPD) to research a Retail Pet Sales Ban. On Tuesday, the WPD took its report to the Wichita City Council.
People who want the ban see it as a way to shut down sales avenues for commercial breeding operations sometimes referred to as puppy mills.
Captain Dan East, over WPD Administrative Services, told council members that his team spent a lot of time researching the topic. He says they met with people both for and against the ban and discussed the issue with the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
East said they also looked at similar cities along the Interstate 35 corridor, beginning in Minnesota and down to Texas.
Bans, litigation in other cities
He said St. Paul, Minnesota, and Midwest City, Oklahoma, have ordinances against the retail sale of pets. However, Des Moines, Kansas City, Overland Park, Topeka and Oklahoma City do not. In Texas, he said that almost every major city has some ordinance or is working on getting 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 from Humane Societies, animal rescue and some other not-for-profit organizations.
East said some towns that have Retail Pet Sales 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 at what could happen if Wichita adopts a Retail Pet Sales Ban.
“Is there the potential these stores would close, or they would open up a satellite store in a neighboring city that does not have a ban?” he said.
He said a ban in Wichita would not stop stores from conducting a sale in Goddard, Andover, Maize, Park City, or another nearby town.
“We know there’s a whole other onion you’re going to open with businesses breaking leases, moving. “There’s nothing that would prevent them from advertising and then the sale taking place outside the city limits of Wichita.”
East said the WPD called towns in Texas that have bans in place. He said they spoke to stores that advertised having dogs for sale. The stores said they would set everything up but then send the customer to a store outside the city limits to finish the transaction.
Who looks into puppy mills?
The WPD says the Kansas Department of Agriculture is tasked with inspecting puppy mills. East said the state has increased funding for the state to have another inspector and another investigator to handle the inspections and enforcement of pet breeding operations.
“If the puppy mills are in the state of Kansas, we have no jurisdiction,” he said.
He pointed to the Kansas Department of Agriculture suspending the license of a Sumner County breeder in October. As a result, more than 70 dogs were rescued.
East said the WPD does not know of any puppy mills in the Wichita city limits or Sedgwick County.
Council Member Mike Hoheisel asked if East thinks people who want the ban have valid concerns.
East said he has talked to people on both sides of the issue and said, “I’ll never say never.”
“We had owners of the pet stores here bringing their books saying, ‘We do not 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 came from, it may have come from a broker side of it.”
Even though he said the different sides did not agree on whether the City needs a ban, they did agree on one thing.
“There was no wavering on this — nobody could, would tolerate the inhumane or the cruel treatment of animals,” he said. “That was a common ground, so I think that common ground could be built upon.”
East said the issue seems to be whether government officials should go after the point of sale, meaning the stores, or the point of origin, meaning the breeders.
Ultimately, because cities in other states are facing litigation over their bans and Kansas already has some state-wide measures, East said the WPD does not believe the City of Wichita should enact a ban.
“We do not oppose a state-wide legislation and regulation,” he said.
When Hoheisel asked if there were any 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 team up with Sedgwick County and other towns before presenting the idea to legislators.
“We feel the state is the best to handle this,” East said.