More than 500 dogs have been seized from a Quebec, Canada puppy mill in what could represent the largest animal cruelty case in the province’s history.
The dogs were found Friday on a property in a rural area west of Montreal. They were living in poor conditions without sufficient food and water.
Guy Auclair, a spokesman for the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, said the scale of the seizure is without precedent in Quebec.
“We have had this kind of situation before, but (with) a lower number of animals,” Auclair said in an interview Saturday.
Auclair said the dogs were different breeds and ranged in age from puppies to fully-grown. Many were found suffering from skin and respiratory problems, he said.
They were placed under the care of Humane Society International, which had already transported several hundred dogs to a treatment center Saturday. Other dogs received treatment from veterinarians at the scene.
“This is definitely one the largest operations that we’ve ever come across in Canada,” said Lauren Scott, a spokeswoman for the organization.
“It also involves some of the worst conditions we have seen to date. I personally can say that I found it heartbreaking to see what these dogs have endured.”
Auclair said an investigation into this matter is currently ongoing and charges could be brought against the operators of the puppy mill. He also said it will be up to the courts to decide whether the dogs will be put up for adoption or returned to their original owners.
This incident is just the latest in a series of disturbing animal abuse cases in Quebec that have made headlines in recent years.
Last month, nearly 40 malnourished Huskies were found chained to trees on a property northwest of Montreal.
The province has long been considered the puppy mill capital of North America, with an estimated 800 unregulated breeding operations in Montreal alone.
Quebec was also named “the best province to be an animal abuser” in the 2011 annual report prepared by the U.S.-based Animal Legal Defense Fund.
The Quebec government is in the process of introducing new animal welfare regulations designed to crack down on puppy mills in the province. The rules would include minimum standards of care and cleanliness and norms for euthanizing unwanted pets.