Is there anything cuter than a floppy-eared puppy? Their little noses and wagging tails are our weakness. It’s hard to resist dogs in pet shops but their cuteness hides a sad past. In order to meet consumer demand for puppies, pet stores typically purchase their dogs from puppy mills. These facilities are large-scale breeding compounds where dogs are treated as nothing more than puppy-producing machines.

Dogs kept in puppy mills live in small, dark cages, are given little to no medical attention, and reside in filthy and unsanitary conditions. Breeding dogs will spend the duration of their lives in these horrific conditions, never knowing what it means to be loved or cared for. Not only do puppy mill mothers have to endure the pain of having their babies continually ripped from them, but the profits from their sale just goes back to fuel the parent’s suffering.

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To breeders, animals are simply inventory. This line of thinking couldn’t be made more clear than through the practice of giving dogs tattoos to identify them. Rather than names, these animals are simply given numbers to keep track of them, as seen in this photo posted on Facebook by National Mill Dog Rescue.

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This incredible organization works to save dogs from puppy mills and raise awareness to end this cruel industry. Of the sweet pup featured in the photo, the rescue explained that dogs from puppy mills are most often tattooed on the ear, but sometimes on the belly or thigh area, as well. This sad image illustrates how much this Chihuahua was regarded as nothing more than a commodity by his former captors.

The good new is we can all help put an end to puppy mills with one simple act: Always adopt and never shop for a companion. For every companion purchased from a pet store, that’s money in the pocket of a puppy mill breeder. With millions of dogs and cats entering shelters each year, there’s really no reason to be breeding more dogs or cats at all. Here are five things you can do to help stop puppy mills.

Lead image source: National Mill Dog Rescue