More than 100 dogs and puppies at an alleged puppy farm in Northland have been handed over to the SPCA and the operation shut down following a lengthy investigation.
The large dog-breeding operation near Dargaville came under scrutiny when animal advocates filmed themselves breaking into the property last October after becoming concerned for the animals' health and welfare.
The SPCA said on Tuesday it was "pleased with the outcome of the investigation" and "to have been able to successfully work with the breeder to rehome the animals".
The animal welfare charity is now calling for the dog-breeding industry to be properly regulated.
"After working closely with and in full consultation with the owner, the decision was made to hand over the majority of the animals to SPCA," national inspectorate manager Alan Wilson said.
"Over the weeks and months that followed, SPCA worked with the breeder to gain ownership of more than 100 dogs and puppies.
"The owner was fully co-operative and the breeding operation is now closed."
The SPCA first visited the property last year after hearing of animal welfare concerns from the Bay of Islands Animal Rescue group.
Animal advocates from the group filmed themselves at the property and shared the video on social media.
The footage showed dozens of dogs of various breeds, including beagles, golden retrievers, poodles and Maltese, in close confinement behind corrugated iron fencing. Inside their pens they were standing on broken pallets on the floor.
Following that visit, the rescue group obtained six of the dogs while the SPCA uplifted three.
Wilson said inspectors have been collecting the rest of the animals over the past several months.
Each animal was well fed and had access to water and shelter, and the SPCA found no breaches to the Animal Welfare Act, he said.
"In this particular case, no laws were broken," Wilson said.
"However, it would no doubt have been difficult to look after so many dogs.
"We understand the public interest and concern from the local community in this case, but we want to reiterate that the owner was fully co-operative and has done the best thing for the dogs."
All the dogs and puppies are now receiving SPCA care or have been adopted out to new homes, Wilson said.
Bay of Islands Animal Rescue group founder Summer Johnson said the SPCA had "let those animals down".
There were many breaches of the Animal Welfare Act, Johnson said, including inbreeding and poor living conditions that caused mental instability and physical problems.
The dogs were also not properly exercised or groomed, she said.
"There were breaches in everything.
"The dogs we still have in our care are having ongoing medication for post-traumatic stress disorder and are still not rehomeable.
"They shouldn't be satisfied with their investigation, the amount of time those dogs were left in her care is gut-wrenching."
New Zealand's dog-breeding industry is not regulated, therefore there is no limit on how many dogs a person can be in possession of, unless council bylaws state otherwise.
The SPCA said there needed to be better standards in the dog-breeding industry, including independent regulation and inspection of all breeding establishments.
The charity also wants to see dogs microchipped, registered and desexed prior to sale or rehoming.
SPCA scientific officer Dr Alison Vaughan said it was currently up to breeders to act responsibly and for prospective buyers to know where they were adopting from.
People shouldn't purchase animals from breeders whose primary motivation for breeding was to produce large numbers of animals for profit, she said.
"If you're looking to purchase a dog from a breeder, it's really important to do your homework.
"We encourage people to adopt from a reputable rescue organisation...but if you're looking to purchase a dog make sure it's from a reputable breeder.
"This helps to reduce problems of unwanted animals caused by oversupply and lessens the risk of your puppy having health or behavioural problems."
Charlie's new family
When Kerikeri resident Margot Farrand first began fostering Charlie the golden retriever five months ago, he was "highly anxious and scared".
Charlie was one of six dogs obtained by the Bay of Islands Animal Rescue Group late last year after they visited the large Dargaville breeding operation which housed more than 100 dogs and puppies.
The 3-year-old has slowly gained more confidence thanks to his new family environment.
Farrand's older dog, Scout, had also "helped majorly" with the adjustment.
"He was really scared of people, he wouldn't have anything to do with me," Farrand said.
"He would run away as soon as he could.
"Scout was his saving grace. He was like a grandad with him."
Farrand first began fostering Charlie in December and he is now a permanent part of the family.