Quebec has unveiled proposed new animal welfare regulations. (CBC)

Quebec has introduced a draft of its new animal welfare regulations, which aim to crack down on puppy and kitten mills in the province.

The rules would set out minimum standards of care and cleanliness for shelters and pounds, while establishing norms for euthanizing unwanted or abandoned pets.

Quebec cabinet minister Geoff Kelley said the new rules are designed to strengthen existing animal welfare laws by giving inspectors a checklist of what to look for. That includes access to food and water, proper cages, and sufficient exercise, Kelley said.

"All those conditions that go into what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in Quebec," he said.

Quebec is considered the puppy mill capital of North America, home to an estimated 2,000 unregulated breeding operations.

To shed that reputation, Kelley said the province has increased the number of animal welfare inspectors from five to 40 in the past three years.

SPCA calls for harsher penalties

The Montreal SPCA welcomed the new rules, saying they would help eliminate practices such as leaving dogs permanently tethered or confining cats to wire cages. However, acting executive director, Alanna Devine, said they are not enough.

"For these regulations to have a deterrent effect, we need to see very high penalties and, absolutely, jail time," she said. "For a judge to sentence people who are found guilty of animal cruelty or neglect."

Increasing the penalties would require changing the legislation. Quebec's Agriculture Minister, Pierre Corbeil said that could happen this fall.

The new rules come amid calls for the province to strengthen its animal cruelty laws, after an undercover investigation by Radio-Canada's Enquête team uncovered questionable euthanasia practices at one of the city's largest for-profit animal shelters.