Activists are calling on Quebec’s new Liberal government to bring in stronger legal protection for animals in the province in the wake of a puppy mill raid in the Eastern Townships on Friday.

Animal protection authorities found more than 200 dogs being kept in inhumane conditions on a farm in Bonsecours.

It's believed to be one of the largest puppy mills found in Quebec.

The raid was just the latest case of animal cruelty in Quebec. In April, undercover video shot by an animal rights group revealed mistreatment of baby calves being raised for veal at a farm in Pont-Rouge.

Gaillard

Sophie Gaillard, co-author of the “Animals Are Not Things” manifesto, says Quebec should follow France's lead and amend its civil code to recognize animals as sentient beings with rights. (CBC)

An online petition calling for changes to the province’s civil code that would recognize animals as sentient beings with rights has garnered more than 42,000 signatures.

As it stands, animals in Quebec have the legal status of moveable property, with all the rights of a toaster or a chair.

“It makes no sense that in 2014 an animal has the same status as a chair in our civil code — it’s an object,” Sophie Gaillard told CBC News.

Gaillard is a co-author of the “Animals Are Not Things” manifesto that calls on the provincial government to modify the Civil Code of Quebec to grant animals a legal status that acknowledges their ability to feel pleasure and pain.

The manifesto is signed by 34 prominent representatives of Quebec's cultural, media and academic communities.

“Animals are not things nor machines, but rather they are sentient beings whose lives matter to them. It is therefore legitimate to consider their interests and moral worth when making decisions about them,” the manifesto reads.

Gaillard wants Quebec to follow France’s lead — on April 15, animal rights activists there won a similar victory when France amended its civil code to recognize animals as sentient beings.

Recent measures that now require anyone in Quebec owning 15 or more cats or dogs to have a license and open their premises to inspections don’t go far enough, animal rights advocates say.

They say that rather than providing better protection for animals, the new requirement has in effect given puppy mill operators an aura of credibility.

“Once they have their permit, these people can use it to say ‘come buy from us,’ Patricia Tulasne told CBC News.

Tulasne, a well-known actress in Quebec, has endorsed the “Animals Are Not Things” manifesto.

Tulasne says Quebec’s new Agriculture Minister Pierre Paradis has made several comments in favour of improving protections for animals.

She hopes those words will turn to action soon.

No one from the ministry was available for comment.