QUEBEC - Animal welfare advocates have removed 125 dogs from a breeding operation south of Quebec City they say wasn't properly caring for the animals.

Provincial officials and Humane Society International's Canadian branch converged on a commercial breeding operation to remove the dogs and puppies.

According to the humane organization, multiple investigations indicated the dogs were not receiving proper care and the security and welfare of the animals was compromised.

The government agency that took part in the operation said the dogs were taken to a shelter where they'll receive veterinary care.

The dogs will remain in the care of a non-governmental organization that enforces animal welfare in Quebec.

A motion will be heard by a judge at a later date to determine whether the dogs will be returned or put up for adoption.

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

In December, the province sharpened the teeth of its laws against animal cruelty, tabling legislation that would hike fines to amounts that could go as high as $75,000 in serious cases.

The bill, which has not yet passed, cracks down on puppy mills, gives the government the power to close a kennel if it finds animals are being abused, and establishes rules on what methods of euthanasia can be used.

In September 2011, 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.

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.