FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – When you see a wire pen in a parking lot and a sign advertising cute little puppies for sale, do you ever stop to ask the seller where they got all of those animals? You should, animal cruelty experts have said, because it can help combat a major pet adoption concern.

The pups could be the product of a puppy mill, a place where hundreds of breeding dogs are caged for their entire lives and forced to live in crowded and filthy conditions with no access to specialized care.

Members of the SPCA, who routinely rescue and care for these ailing dogs and their sick offspring, came together on Friday to educate the public about puppy mills, and what you can do to help stop them before more dogs are hurt.

“I’ve seen dogs missing limbs, ears, eyes, tails,” said Maura Davies with the SPCA. “Some dogs missing a jaw, their entire bottom jaw, so they’re unable to eat. I’ll have nightmares for the rest of my life because of the conditions I’ve seen.”

Still, the SPCA members said that hundreds of North Texas families adopt their adorable dogs from deplorable conditions. SPCA president James Bias said, “It’s usually someone who has no idea they’ve just purchased a puppy from a puppy mill.”

“Some people think registration papers means they’re coming from a good source,” Bias added. “But that doesn’t mean anything.”

The SPCA is now encouraging everyone to take the puppy pledge, and learn how to spot a puppy mill. “The warning signs? Breeder won’t let them on a property,” Bias said, telling the key to finding a possible puppy mill.

People are also encouraged to learn more about animal cruelty laws in Texas, and report any suspected puppy mills to the police or the SPCA. “We don’t know the numbers,” Bias said. “We suspect hundreds of mills breeding 100 or more litters per year. Need to report it.”

A new law starting in October will require breeders to have a license if they have more 12 or more breeding females on their property. The SPCA hopes that this law is just one step toward shutting down puppy mills across Texas.

“It’s overwhelming how horrific it is,” said Davies.