The Humane Society International Canada and provincial authorities rescued 35 dogs on Thursday from a Quebec breeder who had been keeping short-coated and small dogs outside in freezing conditions.

The dogs were seized from a facility in Bas-Saint-Laurent, and they are being taken to an emergency animal shelter in the Montreal area for evaluation and veterinary treatment.

Ewa Demianowicz, a campaign manager for the Humane Society International Canada, said the breeder kept a variety of small dog breeds, including Chihuahuas, pugs and beagles.

When Demianowicz arrived on the scene, she says that many of the animals were "shivering" and "visibly cold."

"For any dog spending their lives (outside) when it is so cold – we have such a cold winter in Quebec, the temperatures are -30 C, -40 C – it is really unacceptable and inhumane, and it is definitely affecting their condition," Demianowicz told in a phone interview.

"Smaller breeds that do not have really longs coats … (are not) meant to be spending so much time outside in freezing temperatures," she added.

The breeder's name and details about previous government inspections and notices have not been released, but Demianowicz said she believes that "inhumane" conditions at the facility have been in place for a "long time."

"After multiple inspections and notices to the owner, or recommendations to house them inside or provide a heated shelter for them … there was no improvement and the dogs were still being kept outside permanently," she said.

Quebec animal welfare laws specify that animals must be kept in an environment that is "suitable" and adapted to their "biological requirements."

Demianowicz said that most of the animals had no access to shelter and were left unprotected from harsh winter conditions.

"Most of them didn’t have a shelter at all they were just really in a fence in an area in the snow," she said.

"Some dogs were chained, others were just loose in an enclosure, but really they were outside without any way of protecting from the elements and the cold," she added.

According to Demianowicz, the government is preparing a file against the breeder and plans to recommend charges against him.

A hearing before a judge will take place in the next three months to determine whether custody of the dogs will be transferred to the government of Quebec or if they will be returned to the owner, Demianowicz said.

Penalties in the province do not include jail time, but convicted felons can face fines. Demianowicz said that breeders can face prohibitions on animal ownership and lose breeding permits.