The BC SPCA says it's recommending charges of animal cruelty after 45 neglected dogs living in "unacceptable" conditions were voluntarily surrendered by a former breeder near Victoria.

The dogs, all Havanese or Havanese-cross, were matted with feces and urine and exposed to high levels of ammonia in the home they were living in, the BC SPCA said.

“The individual was cooperative and voluntarily surrendered the animals, who range in age from one-and-a-half to 15 years,” Marcie Moriarty, the BC SPCA's chief prevention and enforcement officer, said in a statement. “Our staff have spent the past few days assessing the physical and psychological well-being of the dogs and providing immediate medical care for any issues."

The dogs were so filthy and matted they required "extensive" bathing and grooming before BC SPCA workers could begin to assess what condition they were in, Moriarty said.

They've been split up between a number of SPCA shelters on Vancouver Island and aren't yet up for adoption.

The former breeder who surrendered them stopped selling dogs around five years ago. Moriarty said it's an example of why new breeder regulations that have been promised by the province are urgently needed.

"Whether it involves a puppy mill where a breeder is putting profits before the welfare of the animals or a situation where an individual becomes overwhelmed with the number of animals in their care, we need to have standards for breeders and a way for members of the public to identify legitimate breeders from those who are not providing good care and welfare for their animals," she said.

Legislation was passed early in 2017 under the then-BC Liberal government to establish such a licensing system for breeders, but the changes have yet to be finalized under the current NDP government.

The BC SPCA is appealing for donations for the rescued dogs and other abused and injured animals. Donations can be made through the organization's website.