Animal welfare officials say the seizure of 20 designer dogs from a woman who sells puppies online underscores the urgency to finalize B.C. legislation that would require breeders to be licensed.

The small-breed dogs and puppies were removed from a property in Chilliwack, east of Vancouver, after a search warrant was executed by members of the BC SPCA.

The canines, some as young as a day old, are all small-breed "designer dogs" that are in high demand with British Columbians: Maltese-Yorkshire terrier crosses, Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Papillion and Pekingese.

The pups were found soaked in urine, with long nails and matted fur. Many require dental surgery, according to officials.

Marcie Moriarty, chief protection officer of the BC SPCA, says although the breeding operation isn't what you'd consider a classic puppy mill, with filthy crates stacked on top of each other, there are still serious animal welfare concerns.

"This is somewhere that animals are being repetitively bred with little to no regard for their well-being. There are multiple species being neglected – a breeder who become overwhelmed because they likely got caught up in the financial gain," she told CTV Vancouver.

A concerned member of the public contacted the BC SPCA about the breeder, which led to the warrant execution. The woman sells her puppies online through marketplace buy-and-sell websites such as Kijiji, as well as through local brokers or middle men. The dogs would have been sold for $1,000 or more, said Moriarty.

Although its officers were able to act quickly, Moriarty said the seizure could have been prevented if there was legislation in place to regulate the sale of dogs and cats in B.C.

Legislation was passed earlier this year under the BC Liberals to establish a regulatory or licensing system for breeders.

But with a change in government, amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act have been temporarily put on hold – and the NDP still needs to implement regulations to finalize the changes.

"If there was legislation in place now, this is exactly the type of breeder that would be regulated," Moriarty said.

"Breeding animals requires extensive background education, resources, time to do it properly – and that's what we are hopeful that the new regulations will emphasize."

The Chilliwack breeder surrendered the dogs voluntarily. It’s not immediately clear if officials will pursue charges under the animal welfare act. She is co-operating with the investigation.

dogs seized chilliwack

Sandy Potter, who groomed many of the pups last week at Animal Haven Grooming, said she believed basic animal husbandry requirements weren’t being met.

Their coats were soaked in urine and the dogs smelled “horrific.”

The seized dogs are now being cared for at various BC SPCA shelters and foster homes, and will be put up for adoption.

"We need legislation in place right away so we don't have to see more cases like this happen," Moriarty said.

The BC SPCA has issued an emergency appeal to its supporters for donations to help aid the rescue and recovery of the animals.