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This adorable puppy photo shoot is not what it seems

In this photo taken on Monday, April 9, 2012, in a makeshift studio, Taiwanese photographer Tou Chih-kang tries to make a portrait of a dog in the final moments of its life before being put down by lethal injection at a shelter in Taoyuan, northern Taiwan. Tou has been visiting dog shelters for two years now, making human-like portraits that give a sense of dignity and esteem to some 400 canines, in hopes of educating the public on the proper care of pets. This year Taiwanese authorities will kill an estimated 80,000 stray dogs at 38 pounds scattered throughout the island. (AP Photo/Wally Santana)

Wally Santana/AP

The six-month-old's big brown eyes, trusting and calm, pierce right through your computer screen.

The shy puppy, perhaps a chocolate lab, sits ever so patiently on a pedestal as he's photographed. He could be getting his picture taken for a dog food commercial, a Fido ad or an adorable owner-and-pooch glamour shot.

Then you read the caption: He's on death row, and will be killed after this photo shoot. The realization hits you – he's already gone – and it stings.

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That's the point, says photographer Tou Chih-kang, who will launch his first photo exhibit of the dogs next month.

Mr. Tou has been photographing canines at the Taoyuan Animal Shelter in Taiwan, capturing the last moments of life for some 400 dogs – most of which have been abandoned by their owners.

"I believe something should not be told but should be felt," he told the Associated Press, adding that he hopes the painful images help viewers to "understand the inhumanity" these dogs face.

In Taiwan, 80,000 stray dogs will be euthanized – 70 per cent of them killed after 12 days in the shelter, according to the Washington Post.

Mr. Tou has taken more than 400 death-row dogs' photographs in an effort to get pet owners to consider their roles more seriously.

There are, of course, other viral pooch picture collections: Who can forget dogs underwater, or dogs in cars? But this particular gallery has stirred quite a reaction, way beyond the typical 'aww', in its adueince.

Some question his motives. "There are other ways to show the cause and to fight it. I say find another way to gain fame!" writes one commenter. "One of the saddest slideshows I've ever seen on here! I feel sick. May they rest in peace and find joy in their next lives," writes another.

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For me – a certified crazy dog lady – these images are unbearable. They make me angry and sad, but more so, disturbed. I made it four seconds into this video before losing it. Photographing these adorable beings in their last minutes would be an impossible job for me, but I'm glad he was able to do it.

Watch the slideshow – tell us your reaction. Is the photographer pulling on our heart strings to get famous - or is he helping a greater cause?

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