12/06/2011 05:47 EST | Updated 02/05/2012 05:12 EST

Quebec Animal Cruelty Law Sharpened, Fines Boosted

QUEBEC - The Quebec government is sharpening the teeth of its laws against animal cruelty.

Tougher fines that could go as high as $75,000 in serious cases are included in amendments to animal protection legislation tabled on Tuesday.

The bill aims to crack down on puppy mills, giving the government the power to close a kennel if it finds animals are being abused.

Quebec has long been considered the puppy mill capital of North America, with an estimated 800 unregulated breeding operations in Montreal alone.

If passed, the bill will also require some owners of 20 or more animals such as cats and dogs to be licensed.

The proposed law also establishes rules on how animals are housed and what methods of euthanasia can be used.

Agriculture Minister Pierre Corbeil says the legislation should help curb the abuses of pets for sale.

In September, more than 500 dogs were seized from a Quebec puppy mill in what could represent the largest animal cruelty case in the province's history.

The dogs were found on a property in a rural area west of Montreal, living in poor conditions without sufficient food and water.

Nearly 40 malnourished Huskies were found a month earlier chained to trees on a property northwest of Montreal.

Reports in May of animal suffering at Montreal's privately-held Berger Blanc pound also shocked many across the country.

Videos of cats and dogs suffering, as well as images of questionable euthanasia practices documented in a Radio-Canada report, prompted widespread criticism.

Quebec was named "the best province to be an animal abuser" in the 2011 annual report prepared by the U.S.-based Animal Legal Defence Fund.

The fund, which examined animal protection laws in jurisdictions across the country, also placed Nunavut, Alberta and the Northwest Territories in the bottom tier of its rankings.