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What do you guys think?? I know it probably won't happen, but it is my goal to get kill shelters illegal in America
 

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I think it's important to volunteer in a kill shelter to understand the magnitude of the problem. You are in California, which has a problem of epic proportions -- spend some time working in the shelter to see what they are up against. I didn't really understand it until I started volunteering in a public shelter and got to know the staff and management well. It's given me a very different perspective.

In my small city, on a busy day, 20-30 dogs come in through intake. A great day of adoptions is 10, but most days just 2-3. With these numbers, we're at capacity quickly. There's only one way to make space: euth dogs to make space for other dogs.

This is a hard, hard thing. My city briefly tried to go no-kill overnight in a very poorly thought-out attempt to wish the problem away. Dogs stacked up in hallways, bathrooms, closets, on top of each other -- it was awful. I wasn't volunteering back then, so I didn't see it, but the stories of them packed into kennels and fighting for space horrifying. That lasted just a couple of weeks, then they started euthing again because the situation was inhumane.

Then there's the pit bull and feral cat problem. About 7 out of 10 dogs impounded are likely pit bulls--and probably just 1 out of 10 adopted out (I'm guessing, based on what I've observed at the shelter as a volunteer). The PB rescues are all full, always. So what do you do with them? Keep them in a small kennel with minimal care forever? The most creative solution I've heard for the feral cats is to neuter and vax them and release them back to be community cats. You can't exactly do that with pit bulls though.

We are currently looking at a 3-5 year, or more, journey to becoming no kill. (And "no kill" by the way, means a kill-rate of 10% or less, not truly no kill. The 10% includes dogs with aggressive temperaments and health issues that make them unadoptable.)

Target Zero Institute in Jacksonville (a non-profit org.) advises cities on how to do it, and I've looked carefully at their plan. The plan is very, very controversial. As worthy as the goal is, parts of it really make me queasy.

First, the plan requires a massive increase in free/low-cost speutering--including control of feral cats. The benefits of that in cutting the numbers of strays are realized a few years out with a sharp drop in shelter population, but it has to happen before the no-kill goal is feasible. This means most animals in the community need to be fixed. If you've followed this board for a few months, you've seen the controversy spay/neuter laws stir up!

In cities that have used the TZI protocol to get to no kill, they also strive for an "open adoption" policy from both shelters AND rescues, with little or no adoption fee, no home checks, and no vet reference checks. Anyone who shows up can walk out with a dog, on a whim, for next to no money. If they want to chain it up outside, make it a junkyard dog, whatever -- they get a dog and a counselor attempts "education." If their last dog died from untreated heartworms because it wasn't on preventative, they get a dog. If they have no idea how to manage a powerful breed, no plans to exercise or even minimally train, they get a dog. If they train by beating the dog, I guess they get a dog. And on and on. TZI claims the "open adoption" policy is an essential component of the no-kill formula.

Some rescues in Jacksonville, where it was instituted, have told me they view the plan as having unintended negative consequences -- shoving the problem around and making it a neglect/abuse problem instead of a euthanasia problem. It's also put pressure on private rescues who spend hundreds of dollars vetting dogs, as adopters are socialized in the community through lots of advertising to expect dogs to be "free." I fear it creates a community perception of dogs being disposable since they don't cost anything.

I've seen what terrible homes have done to the psyches of dogs I've fostered -- the idea of placing a dog into one of those homes gives me the shivers. I won't do it.

This isn't to say I don't wish we could be no kill. I have some great dogs at the shelter tagged with my phone number so that I get a call to come foster them when their time is up. I'm on the front lines trying to save lives--there's a sweet one at my feet that was under a euth order last week until she got a foster commitment.

I fear solutions that may cause other worse problems. The policy issue is incredibly complex, esp. in places like California and the Deep South were it's puppy season year round, and dogs are bred constantly and indiscriminately in the community. All of this is a long way of saying, I wish we didn't have dogs dying for space...but the path to getting there is fraught with peril.
 

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Until there is a better solution, unfortunately kill shelters are very necessary. I have volunteered in both kill and non kill and they both have their negatives. No kill is a nice idea, but there is a lot more involved than what people think. I just pulled a GSD a few weeks ago from a no kill shelter who's owner died and the wife couldn't handle him. This dog has a very strong personality and while everyone was nice to him at the shelter, they were also afraid of him. While he was at the shelter,he bit several people that he felt 'stepped out of line with him' and they were going to kill him, so they called me to come in and see him. I have had him ever since. There is also another dog who was caught feral at this same shelter who has been there for 3 years. This dog is afraid of his own skin and is literally a prisoner in his own body. He hasn't improved at all in the 3 years that he has been there.


There are a lot of animals that develop behavioral issues in no kill shelters and if they aren't going to get out of the shelter and be helped with their issues, it is kinder to kill them IMO.
 

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+1 to everything Magwart said. That is dead on.
 

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All of what Magwart said makes sense to me from what I have observed. It's amazing that shelter tried to go no kill!

Our small rural shelter has managed to go "no-kill" as in 90% save rate, but they have the worst screening procedures I have ever seen for new owners. They also give cats away at $10 and I wonder what happens to them. Very few people in this town are "pet savvy" and a lot just let their pets run wild in the streets, in danger of being killed every day. Animal Control can't keep up with it and probably doesn't care to since they are busy with more serious neglect cases. I do think part of this is due to the town's demographics and it is definitely a cultural problem, not an overpopulation problem. People here just view pets as transient, practically expecting them to come and go from your life on a whim.

I don't think this absurd level of open adoption is necessary in all cases. You have a responsibility to place safe, healthy pets with the general public, but you also have a responsibility to place dogs in safe, healthy homes. The guy who originally adopted my dog kept her locked in the backyard for two years, then returned her to the shelter, lying about her history in the process. I was honest on my questionnaire about having to euthanize a dog at an early age, and they didn't even ask about it. I think the middle ground is probably training staff to recognize when an exception should be made to stricter rules. For example, not all great homes have fenced backyards.

Euthanasia of healthy, adoptable animals has fallen dramatically in this country. The number of communities with a 90% save rate is only going to grow. So even if there are some very sad situations where no-kill doesn't work right now, that doesn't mean it's not a worthy and achievable long-term goal. However, it will be VERY important not to demonize shelters like the one Magwart described, who are fully willing but not yet able.

Just my two cents. I realize this topic has been done to death, but I really care about it.


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Great post Magwart!

What has your experience been with municipal animal control agencies coordinating and cooperating with shelters and rescues (local, regional, state and out-of-state)?

In my area, there is a great deal of communication between Chicago ACC and local groups to pull adoptable dogs that would otherwise be euthanized. There are also a lot of efforts to communicate and coordinate with shelters in parts of the country that are overflowing and just do not have the adoption traffic that is needed.

I do not think it will be possible, or wise, for municipal shelters to be completely no kill - in fact, a surprising amount of people surrender their severely ill pets to municipal shelters for euthanasia because it is the most affordable option to put the dog to sleep humanely. This, on top of the fact that some dogs are just not adoptable due to many other factors.

But, with that said, I do think it is possible to achieve no-kill for dogs that suffer from treatable illnesses and fixable behavior problems. In other words, to eliminate euthanasia of adoptable dogs due to capacity issues.
 

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I wish it were different, that we could find a home for every animal that was healthy enough (both mentally and physically) to benefit from a home. But we are not there yet.

Considering the **** that some animals have to endure, I learned to accept that there are worse fates than a humane death. I have seen animals living in situations that are just unbelievable. Just unbelievable.

I am really struggling with a local shelter right now. The county that had operated the shelter decided that they just couldn't afford the cost any more and said they were going to close down. A local woman who had been involved in a local "no kill" shelter (which was really a system of foster homes and not a physical shelter) offered to take over the shelter as a stand alone non-profit, service the animal control contract from the county for pennies on the dollar on the old contract and go "no kill".

And for the past year they have participated in the Rachel Ray Challenge, where the shelter with the highest adoption numbers wins. They came in second place last year and won something like $50,000. They want first place this year.

So...they are giving dogs away. It started with Black Dog Saturdays and has morphed into a "pay what you can" for any dog. Every adoption fee is a suggestion and open to negotiation. No application. You just have to have an ID that shows you are over 18 years of age. And that means somebody under age wanting to "adopt" can solicit some stranger in the parking lot and the shelter will do the adoption, knowing that the dog is actually going to the 16 year old kid and her boyfriend who woke up that morning and decided they wanted a dog. Some dogs are being adopted and returned four and five times. It is a revolving door. And not good for the dogs.

There has to be some golden middle between that and euthanizing for time and room issues. I don't know what it is, but there has to be.
Sheilah
 

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That's a lofty goal, and I don't envy you in trying to achieve it. It is a very sad fact that the pet overpopulation problem in the US is severe :(

I don't want to discourage your efforts, by any means. But if you want to rescue every dog, you will have greater success going into business, achieving great wealth, and I mean Bill Gates and Steve Jobs' degree of wealth, and then redistributing your profits to the dogs in need. The US mentality toward animal welfare is progressive world wide. Yet, for dog lovers, it is still appalling.

Euth is a sad option, but all too often, it remains the most humane option. Volunteer at a shelter and you will get some painful perspective :(

I think, hon, you will have a greater impact doing personal service to individual rescues. Find an abandoned dog soul you can focus on, and save her!


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Hi Sheilah (sit/stay),

Yikes... what a nightmare! So very sorry to hear the situation you are facing with your local shelter.

If you ever want someone to bounce ideas off, please know I would be very happy to share my experience with things that have been tried out by different groups in my area - some were total disasters and others have worked really well.

To me, the worst answer is to resort to "giving away" dogs by any means necessary. A better answer is to move dogs to organizations and areas where the demand ensures the standards of adoption remain in place.
 

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To me, the worst answer is to resort to "giving away" dogs by any means necessary. A better answer is to move dogs to organizations and areas where the demand ensures the standards of adoption remain in place.
I agree with you, but the fact remains that giving dogs away is free (for both shelter and adopter -- one eliminates vetting/care expenses, the other skips an adoption fee) and transport costs money. A lot of money, if you're doing it right. I've never brought one of my foster dogs up for much less than $500. Rescue groups can cut down those costs by relying on volunteers to replace paid boarding and transport services, but transferring pets across regions remains very expensive.

It's a good solution, IMO. But like all the other good solutions, it's a money pit. At some point people start looking at cheaper alternatives.
 

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I agree with you, but the fact remains that giving dogs away is free (for both shelter and adopter -- one eliminates vetting/care expenses, the other skips an adoption fee) and transport costs money. A lot of money, if you're doing it right. I've never brought one of my foster dogs up for much less than $500. Rescue groups can cut down those costs by relying on volunteers to replace paid boarding and transport services, but transferring pets across regions remains very expensive.

It's a good solution, IMO. But like all the other good solutions, it's a money pit. At some point people start looking at cheaper alternatives.
No argument with you there. Sometimes it is easy to take for granted that I live in a densely populated area - the solution may be 10 miles a way, not across the country.

In the case described by sit/stay, I wonder if there aren't other local funding or fundraising mechanisms that could be explored.
 

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I didn't vote because I don't know how I feel, am still sorting it out. I volunteered at our local shelter that euthanizes when they run out of space and was told that they have to, and that sounded reasonable. Now I volunteer at a wonderful no-kill facility and am finding it hard to understand why that can't be the norm. I live in a city that I don't think has the scope of problem that some areas of the country have though.
 

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Sometimes it is easy to take for granted that I live in a densely populated area - the solution may be 10 miles a way, not across the country.
For my region, the issue isn't so much population density as population changes, and in the population of dogs, not people.

If you go 10 miles out of Philly in any direction, the shelters will still be crammed with pit bulls. There's no point moving those guys. Their adoption chances don't change.

If you go 50 miles west, you're in puppy mill territory. The dog population does change there, and the need is often quite dire. By building up relationships with the Amish farmers who are the primary puppy millers in that area, some rescues have been able to get the unsold puppies and worn-out breeding stock for free, which at least saves those dogs' lives. The millers don't care; they're just as happy to dump the dogs into rescue as shoot them, since at least if the dogs go into rescue they don't have to worry about disposing of the bodies.

The only condition is that the receiving rescues are not allowed to publicize the dogs' sources -- so you can't, for example, Google the names of some cute-sounding "Happy Valley Golden Retrievers" and find exposes of the dogs' real conditions. (I made that name up, as far as I know it's not a real breeder.)

So that's a bad tangled-up situation where the rescues are choosing the least bad alternative of keeping their mouths shut but at least getting the dogs out alive and without giving the millers any money. Mostly those dogs go to breed-specific rescues, since they are technically purebreds, and my all-breed rescue doesn't get a lot of them. When we do, they usually need some medical care and a lot of behavioral rehab.

Most of our dogs come from the rural South. I've talked about them before, but they ALL come out of those shelters with parasites and diseases. There is zero vetting in those shelters. Absolutely none. The shelters are so broke that they have to get their combination vaccines as donations from supporters. If they didn't have donated vaccines, their dogs wouldn't even get those. And of course there's a window between vaccination and immunity, so about once or twice a year, distemper runs through those shelters and all the dogs die.

Because those dogs get no vetting and all come in carrying SOMETHING, vetting costs are the bulk of what we spend money on. The dogs have to be healthy before we can responsibly put them up for adoption, so it is a huge, bottomless, massively sucking money pit. Also, HW+ dogs obviously have to sit in foster care for at least 30 days, and we get a lot of those. So space, time, and skill are limitations as well. We always need more foster homes capable of nursing a dog through HW treatment. There aren't many.

It's all doable. We can save those dogs, and they are good dogs: sweet, affectionate family companions with strong underlying health. But it is a massively expensive endeavor -- in money, time and effort -- to cure everything that wasn't prevented from the get-go. The differences in standards of care really get costly when you're moving dogs across disparate communities.

Complicated, costly problems. Difficult solutions. I try to find hope wherever I can, but man, it's tough going some days.
 

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In the case described by sit/stay, I wonder if there aren't other local funding or fundraising mechanisms that could be explored.
In the case of this one shelter and their giving away dogs, they are doing it only to pump up the numbers so they can win the Rachel Ray Challenge. It has nothing to do with not having access to a better way, or support. They want to win. They see the money awarded to the winner as something that will be of great benefit to the shelter, so getting those adoption numbers up any way they can justifies it.

Very sad for the dogs, since it isn't about the best match for them and sad for the community, too. I am sure there will be people all pumped up about adopting from a shelter who will walk out with the wrong dog and never support shelter adoption again because of it. All it takes is one bad experience. Shoot, look how many board members here have had one bad experience and will never consider that route again because of it.
Sheilah
 

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Pretty much agree with everything Magwart said.


For my region, the issue isn't so much population density as population changes, and in the population of dogs, not people.

If you go 10 miles out of Philly in any direction, the shelters will still be crammed with pit bulls. There's no point moving those guys. Their adoption chances don't change.

If you go 50 miles west, you're in puppy mill territory. The dog population does change there, and the need is often quite dire. By building up relationships with the Amish farmers who are the primary puppy millers in that area, some rescues have been able to get the unsold puppies and worn-out breeding stock for free, which at least saves those dogs' lives. The millers don't care; they're just as happy to dump the dogs into rescue as shoot them, since at least if the dogs go into rescue they don't have to worry about disposing of the bodies.

The only condition is that the receiving rescues are not allowed to publicize the dogs' sources -- so you can't, for example, Google the names of some cute-sounding "Happy Valley Golden Retrievers" and find exposes of the dogs' real conditions. (I made that name up, as far as I know it's not a real breeder.)

So that's a bad tangled-up situation where the rescues are choosing the least bad alternative of keeping their mouths shut but at least getting the dogs out alive and without giving the millers any money. Mostly those dogs go to breed-specific rescues, since they are technically purebreds, and my all-breed rescue doesn't get a lot of them. When we do, they usually need some medical care and a lot of behavioral rehab.

Most of our dogs come from the rural South. I've talked about them before, but they ALL come out of those shelters with parasites and diseases. There is zero vetting in those shelters. Absolutely none. The shelters are so broke that they have to get their combination vaccines as donations from supporters. If they didn't have donated vaccines, their dogs wouldn't even get those. And of course there's a window between vaccination and immunity, so about once or twice a year, distemper runs through those shelters and all the dogs die.

Because those dogs get no vetting and all come in carrying SOMETHING, vetting costs are the bulk of what we spend money on. The dogs have to be healthy before we can responsibly put them up for adoption, so it is a huge, bottomless, massively sucking money pit. Also, HW+ dogs obviously have to sit in foster care for at least 30 days, and we get a lot of those. So space, time, and skill are limitations as well. We always need more foster homes capable of nursing a dog through HW treatment. There aren't many.

It's all doable. We can save those dogs, and they are good dogs: sweet, affectionate family companions with strong underlying health. But it is a massively expensive endeavor -- in money, time and effort -- to cure everything that wasn't prevented from the get-go. The differences in standards of care really get costly when you're moving dogs across disparate communities.

Complicated, costly problems. Difficult solutions. I try to find hope wherever I can, but man, it's tough going some days.

While the population in shelters in the area may be majority Pit Bull mixes, there are many other breeds that are seen routinely though they often go to rescues or shelters other than ACCT.

You are right, there are certain types of dogs up here you just won't find. When we were looking to adopt a Cattle Dog, the only place that had any available was MLAR ad they don't adopt out to our area. We ended up getting a pup to come up from TN - the cost being near $400 altogether.
 

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While the population in shelters in the area may be majority Pit Bull mixes, there are many other breeds that are seen routinely though they often go to rescues or shelters other than ACCT.
ACCT and PSPCA are almost always 95%+ pits and pit mixes. Last time I went there, I counted over 200 dogs, of which nine were not pitties. Any dog that isn't a pittie, and is even remotely adoptable, either gets adopted or farmed out to rescue within nanoseconds.

Morris Animal Refuge (where Pongu hails from!) does usually have a majority of non-pit dogs, but it is a very small shelter and usually only has a couple of dogs at a time. (Plus, up until a couple of years ago, Morris was euthanizing pits on intake and would not put any of them up for adoption. They've since changed that policy, though.) Although it's open admission, because of its small size and affluent neighborhood location, Morris is actually a pretty good example of a shelter that has mostly owner hardship cases, at least when it comes to dogs. And, even though their board-promulgated policies actively discourage volunteers from trying to help, they never seem to have any trouble adopting out those dogs.

MLAR is one of the rescues that helps the puppy mill dogs I was talking about. That's one good thing they do.

ahee, now I'm all tempted to get into Philly-area rescue gossip...
 

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ACCT and PSPCA are almost always 95%+ pits and pit mixes. Last time I went there, I counted over 200 dogs, of which nine were not pitties. Any dog that isn't a pittie, and is even remotely adoptable, either gets adopted or farmed out to rescue within nanoseconds.

Morris Animal Refuge (where Pongu hails from!) does usually have a majority of non-pit dogs, but it is a very small shelter and usually only has a couple of dogs at a time. (Plus, up until a couple of years ago, Morris was euthanizing pits on intake and would not put any of them up for adoption. They've since changed that policy, though.) Although it's open admission, because of its small size and affluent neighborhood location, Morris is actually a pretty good example of a shelter that has mostly owner hardship cases, at least when it comes to dogs. And, even though their board-promulgated policies actively discourage volunteers from trying to help, they never seem to have any trouble adopting out those dogs.

MLAR is one of the rescues that helps the puppy mill dogs I was talking about. That's one good thing they do.

ahee, now I'm all tempted to get into Philly-area rescue gossip...
You're right, the adoption floors are a lot of the time flooded with bull breeds. But like you said, the others often go out to rescue groups in the area. But sometimes the non-pits don't go into rescue immediately. They will be held in the back (at least this used to happen) for days or sometimes over a week. So when people complain that it's nothing but pit bulls available, that's really not the case. It just means they can't get instant gratification by going to see dogs on a whim. I've lost count of the number of people that have come in asking for X-breed and when I tell them there's not a physical location but many available in foster homes through rescue that they can meet/apply online, they balk at the idea :(

Now Morris, they are a whole different ballgame. I've never been able to find an exact number for their euthanasia rate, but I have heard it is very high - which I don't understand because they can certainly tell people that they don't have the space.

I wonder if we've crossed paths before......

This is the breakdown from one of my visits to ACCT (including the back)

Total number of Pit Bull Terrier/American Pit Bull Terrier mixes - 102

Total number of Jack Russel Terrier mixes - 3

Total number of Presa Canario mixes - 1

Total number of Fox Terrier mixes - 1

Total number of Shepherd mixes - 8

Total number of Maltese mixes - 2

Total number of Poodle mixes - 4

Total number of Chihuahua mixes - 6

Total number of Terrier mixes - 4

Total number of Carrin Terrier mixes - 1

Total number of Shiba Inu mixes - 1

Total number of Collie mixes - 1

Total number of American Staffordshire Terrier mixes - 1

Number of Australian Cattle Dog mixes - 1

Total number of Boxer mixes - 2

Total number of Cane Corso mixes - 1

Total number of American Bulldog mixes - 3

Total number of Lab mixes - 4

Total number of Rottie mixes - 4

Total number of Chinese Crested mixes - 1

Total number of Manchester Terrier mixes - 1

Total number of Chow Chow mixes - 1

Total number of Corgi mixes - 1

Total number of Beagle mixes - 1

Total number of Spaniel mixes - 1

Total number of Min Pin mixes - 1

Total number of Pomeranian mixes - 1

Number of Cocker Spaniel mixes - 1
 

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But sometimes the non-pits don't go into rescue immediately. They will be held in the back (at least this used to happen) for days or sometimes over a week. So when people complain that it's nothing but pit bulls available, that's really not the case. It just means they can't get instant gratification by going to see dogs on a whim.
That's true, I've seen the other dogs in the back. When I was first getting into fostering, ACCT/PSPCA was the first place I tried (actually, that's not true. Morris was the first place I tried, but they do not accept fosters for dogs -- one of many headscratcher policies there). I can't foster a pittie because of condo restrictions, so I asked about the dogs in the back, and they wouldn't let me foster any of those because they were strays being held for potential owner reclamation. So, fair enough, I didn't end up fostering for them.

But on the adoption floor it's all pitties. And if you go there trying to adopt a non-pit dog because it's been posted on Craigslist or Facebook, good luck, it'll be gone in half an hour or less. The adoption demand is there, which is great. What's not so great is that the pits largely get left behind.

You'll never find a public, accurate euthanasia number for Morris. They don't do Maddie's Fund (they don't need to, they're sitting on a reserve fund of millions) so they've got no reason to post it.

Morris is so frustrating to me. It's right in my backyard and it's where Pongu came from (I'm pretty sure he is their most accomplished alum ever, title-wise, even though he is an insane gimpy-legged bucket of problems) and I would really love to be able to support them wholeheartedly, but the board just makes it so, so hard.

The adoption counselor there is great. I love her. But she is fighting an uphill battle in a lot of ways, and as far as I can figure there's no reason it should be so hard. They have a good population of desirable (or potentially desirable) dogs, a high profile for how small the shelter is, and a TON of dog-loving people in the community who would love to help, if only they were allowed.

But nope, gotta do everything the hard way.

We may have crossed paths, I dunno. Seems very possible. ;)
 
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