Dog Abusing City’s ACO Charged with Cruelty

The city of Winnfield, LA is home to Uncle Earl’s Hog Dog Trials – an annual event where dogs are turned loose in an enclosure with wild hogs whose tusks have been removed. The length of time it takes the dog to pin down and/or maim the hog determines the winner. Winnfield proudly advertises the blood sport on its website, describing the event as the “Super Bowl” of hog dog rodeos.

Although Winnfield’s city website does not mention an animal control officer, it apparently has one.  Or had – as the last one is currently in jail, charged with animal cruelty.  Former Winnfield ACO Eva Wise allegedly stopped paying rent in October 2013.  At that time, her landlord, who was preparing to evict her, received a phone call from the Heart of Louisiana Humane Society requesting permission to access the property for a cruelty investigation.

Wise had allegedly left 9 dogs on the property she abandoned, chained without food or water along with 8 dogs and a litter of puppies on another property one mile away.  Two of the dogs were already dead and the rest were reportedly in such bad shape, all but two were euthanized on site.

The landlord, Jennifer Johnson, says she asked Wise why the dogs had been left to starve to death:

“She just said that she couldn’t hardly afford to feed herself, much less the animals and she had said that she had told some of her husband’s family they needed to come get the dogs because she had apparently up and left and this had been for several weeks,” said Johnson.

Although the dogs were discovered in October 2013, Wise was not arrested until February 28, 2014.  Law enforcement declined to explain the reason for the lengthy delay.  She has since pleaded not guilty to seven counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.  Her court date has been set for July 28.  One of the two surviving dogs has an adoption application pending and the other is available for adoption.

City of Winnfield, this is your wake-up call. Stop being proud of hurting dogs and start attracting a different element in your animal control department.  Every dog has the right to live, to love and to be loved.  Advertise that.

(Thank you Clarice for sending me this story.)

WV Animal Control Officer Violates Law in Dog Killing, Will Keep Job

A Fayette County dog bit a child on March 11, 2014 and stitches were required as a result of the injury. Fayette Co ACO Russell Parker seized the dog and was advised by the owner that the dog had not been vaccinated for rabies. The owner stated the dog had attacked another person in past and agreed to have the dog euthanized.

The Fayette Co animal control director is the only person licensed to euthanize animals for the county and she works at a veterinary clinic. When ACO Russell was advised by the county health department on March 12 that the dog’s head needed to be sent to a lab for rabies testing ASAP, the individual licensed to perform euthanasia was contacted. She stated she would come to the county facility after her shift ended at the clinic that afternoon to perform the euthanasia. The dog’s owner had already paid the vet clinic for the euthanasia.

ACO Russell decided the euthanasia could not be delayed and opted to shoot the dog to death with a small caliber rifle. He did not inform the animal control director of his intentions.  Nor did he exercise the most obvious option of immediately transporting the dog to the vet clinic for the euthanasia. After killing the dog, he reportedly used some sort of tool to remove the head and sent it to a lab for testing.

West Virginia code allows for the shooting of dogs under limited circumstances and there are specific protocols which must be followed:

(c) In an emergency or in a situation in which a dog cannot be humanely destroyed in an expeditious manner, a dog may be destroyed by shooting if:

(1) The shooting is performed by someone trained in the use of firearms with a weapon and ammunition of suitable caliber and other characteristics designed to produce instantaneous death by a single shot; and

(2) Maximum precaution is taken to minimize the dog’s suffering and to protect other persons and animals.

The animal control director filed a complaint with the sheriff’s office regarding the killing. The sheriff’s investigator determined that ACO Parker was in violation of the law as he did not use a firearm capable of killing the dog with one shot. In fact, ACO Parker shot the dog three times before he finally died, causing needless pain and suffering.

Fayette Co sheriff Steve Kessler concluded that despite the violation of the law which resulted in the dog’s agonizing death, there were no grounds to fire ACO Parker. His reasoning:

  • ACO Parker was trying to to get the dog’s head to the lab as quickly as possible for the sake of the bitten child and thought this was the only way to do it.
  • Using a weapon of insufficient caliber to kill the pet with a single shot as required by law is exactly the same as when a technician tries to euthanize a pet by injection, misses the vein and must re-insert the needle.
  • Serving as an ACO is a “dirty, nasty” job which pays slightly more than minimum wage.

As to the first point, it does not seem credible to me that ACO Parker thought shooting the dog to death was the only way to get the head submitted for testing right away. He didn’t even explore the alternatives such as driving the dog to the clinic himself or requesting the services of another clinic. Regarding the second point, a missed venipuncture with a small needle is in no way, shape or form the equivalent of a small caliber rifle shot. One does not cause the same pain and suffering as the other, as posited by Sheriff Kessler in his press release.  And lastly, whether or not the sheriff thinks sheltering animals is a “dirty, nasty” job is irrelevant, as is the pay.  The sheriff is sworn to uphold the law which in this case, was violated.

Local animal advocates had been calling for ACO Parker’s termination.  Sheriff Kessler stated that ACO Parker has been disciplined but refused to elaborate.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

GA Animal Control Officer Posts Images Mocking Dead Pets

Barrow County Animal Control Officer Danyal Harper has been on the job for nine years and was promoted to director of the long-troubled Georgia pound on March 25.  Then an anonymous tipster sent screencaps of ACO Harper’s Photobucket account to the local news and all hell broke loose.  So what was ACO Harper posting on Photobucket?  Compassionate people will find these descriptions difficult to read:

The first item was a short clip from a You Tube music video about a board game called “Euthanasia!” that “makes you want to kill your pets.”

When a character on the video asks, “What am I going to do with all these kittens?” the other players respond, “Euthanasia!” And on the game board is a silver device called “The Pound” where the plastic kittens are dropped to their deaths.

Harper also posted an actual photo of a dog copulating with a duck; a photo of two gun-toting GI Joe dolls in camouflage standing on the carcass of a dead squirrel; two photos of “Free Cat” roadside signs posted next to dead cats; and a poster of a kitten that states: “KITTENS. You have to love them. God knows you’ve killed so many already.”

More:

One of the posts includes a satirical advertisement for a Cat Carrier— a contraption with a “stabilizer screw” on one end and muzzle on the other— that’s designed to transport a cat. An “endorsement” states that the device helps mold the cat “into a well-mannered creature God intended.”

Another is a photo of a dead cat with a sign pointing to it saying “Free Cat” and underneath is written “Charitability: At least your heart is in the right place.”

Although news outlets characterized the disturbing images as “dark humor” and “off-color”, there is no indication from ACO Harper as to whether he thought the images were dark, funny, some kind of turn-on, or anything else since he emptied his Photobucket account and hid from reporters:

11 Alive went by the animal control office where we were told Harper was on duty, but that he did not want to comment on the controversial pictures.

At a hastily called meeting yesterday, the Barrow Co Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to yank ACO Harper’s promotion. But he’s still the senior ACO for the county because, you know, it’s not clear whether the postings are indicative of any really serious problems. In order to determine that, the county will investigate itself.

I am not a psychiatrist but I get gallows humor. Totally. I have many years of experience with it as a coping mechanism. This ain’t that. Anyone who reads the descriptions and/or sees these images should be immediately struck by how NOT THAT they are. Why is Barrow Co still paying this guy to handle animals? Would any of the county commissioners like to volunteer their kids or grandkids to be under this ACO’s care? Perhaps a kiddie camping trip in the woods with ACO Harper, just to show the community they have full faith in the guy? [tumbleweed]

(Thank you Clarice for the links.)

On-Call KY ACO Charged with DUI

Take a look at the And-For-My-Next-Trick-I’ll-Jump-Through-These Rings-of-Fire adoption application required to save a pet from being killed by the Scott Co pound in KY.  The last question on the form is:

Would you allow a home visit by a representative of the Scott County Animal Shelter?

See, the Scott Co ACO must judge you. To see if you are good enough to save a homeless pet from going to the landfill.

Scott Co ACO Leitha Burton was on-call Monday night when she took the county AC truck home with her.  But instead of responding to emergency animal calls that night, ACO Burton allegedly got drunk and her truck smashed into two vehicles and a house on her street, causing over $30,000 in damages.

When police arrived at the crash scene, they reportedly found ACO Burton alone:

Police say Burton was charged with DUI because she admitted to drinking and driving, and because she smelled of an alcoholic beverage and was unsteady on her feet.

While ACO Burton reportedly admitted to drinking and driving the county truck shortly before the crash, she claimed another woman had been driving at the time of the crash and that the driver had run away before police arrived.  Police are investigating.  Meantime, it’s business as usual in Scott Co:

Scott County Judge-Executive George Lusby says Burton won’t be disciplined without a conviction and her use of county property will be examined.

Any adoption applicants volunteering to have ACO Burton drive over to their house to pass judgement on them?

(Thank you Clarice for the link.)

AL ACO Ties Dead Dog to Tailgate of AC Truck

AL – Marshall Co ACO Kevin Hooks responded to a call on Monday regarding a pack of 5 dogs who had killed a pet owner’s dog.  The owner had shot one of the 5 dogs to death.  ACO Hooks captured 3 of the surviving dogs and loaded them onto his truck.  He tied the dead pack dog’s body to his tailgate and drove 35 miles back to the city pound used by Marshall Co.

During the trip, several drivers reportedly got out of their vehicles at a red light and knocked on the truck’s window, trying to alert the ACO that a dead dog was hanging out the back of his truck.  But he disregarded the concerned citizens and continued on to a busy highway where a woman photographed the back of the truck and posted it on Facebook.  Local news outlets ran the story.

Hooks told WHNT NEWS 19 he had live stray dogs in the other cages and wanted to keep them from destroying the dead dog.  Hooks said he also wanted to avoid making two 70-mile round trips.

“The mistake he made was not making two trips,” said [Marshall Co Commission] Chairman Hutcheson. “He should have took the live animals and put them in the location and then he should have came back, put the large animal inside the box, closed it up so it wasn’t visible to the public.”

Dogs are sentient beings who are aware of the difference between living animals and dead animals.  They form bonds in life and they grieve when those they’ve bonded with die.  The notion that this incident was objectionable only because the dead dog was visible to the public is outrageous.  Even more troubling, I get the impression that ACO Hooks might have placed the dead dog inside the cage with the live dogs if he felt certain they wouldn’t have made a mess he would have had to clean up later.

Let’s be clear, the reasons this incident is unacceptable are:

  • A dead dog was tied to the tailgate of an AC truck and placed within sight and smell of his caged packmates who had just witnessed his killing.
  • A dead dog was tied to the tailgate of an AC truck and driven past countless citizens, some of whom tried to alert the ACO to the inappropriateness of the situation but were ignored.
  • A dead dog was tied to the tailgate of an AC truck.  Full stop.

Even if it was impossible to make the return trip to transport the dead dog separately, I can’t help thinking what a difference two black trash bags could have made in this situation. If trash bags are not carried on the AC vehicle (and they should be), the ACO could have asked the pet owner for two or picked up a box of them at a store.  Double bagging the dead dog would have been a reasonable alternative if the return trip was deemed impossible for whatever reason.

ACO Hooks’s faux-pology to a reporter demonstrates his failure to understand the situation:

 “Well yes I’m sorry that we alarmed the public by transporting the animal in a way that it raised an alarm to the public. I believe it could have been handled better if time had permitted” Hooks said.

But since time was an issue, it couldn’t have been handled any better so totally not sorry.  If ACO Hooks does not have time to do his job in a manner consistent with respecting the animals in his care, changes need to be made. But don’t expect major reform as a result of this incident:

The Chairman of the Marshall County Commission says he took disciplinary action against Kevin Hooks, but is keeping him in the position for now.

***

Note:  The images of the dead dog at the links have been sufficiently blurred to avoid disturbing most readers in my opinion.

(Thanks Clarice for sending me these links.)

OR ACO Allegedly Beat Scared Dog in Her Own Yard

When Martin Starr, a Hillsborough, OR pet owner, arrived home on February 25, he found his two dogs had escaped his yard and a Washington Co ACO had left a note on his door:

Image from the KPTV website

Image from the KPTV website

Two dogs, Dojie and Lucy, were barking in the street in front of their home.  Someone called AC and a Washington Co ACO responded to the scene.   Three witnesses reportedly told the owner that Dojie was scared and ran from the ACO into her backyard.  The ACO allegedly followed her back there with a collapsible baton and, out of sight of witnesses, beat her about the head so severely, she will lose her eye.

Bill Enro, a neighbor who knew the dogs, had offered to help with the situation:

“Just knowing the dogs, they don’t seem to be that aggressive,” Erno said. “To me I was a little surprised when I heard that they actually had to smack Dojie.”

He said Dojie and her house mate, Lucy, have never been aggressive.

An investigation has been opened by the Hillsborough police department and the ACO is on desk duty during that investigation.  Washington Co AC released a limited statement regarding the incident which reads, in part:

We urge people to remember that the initial report indicates that the dog’s owner was not at home when the dogs were at large and the incident occurred.

Right. Also the victim is a slut who was drunk and wearing a short skirt at the time of the attack.

This isn’t the first time the ACO has been investigated for violence against a dog.  He reportedly shot a dog to death while on duty in Alaska in 2004.  His superiors cleared him of any wrongdoing in that killing.  That dog was probably asking for it too.

Mr. Starr says Dojie’s future as a river rescue dog is uncertain due to her compromised vision.  More than that, he loves his dog and considers her a member of the family.  Mr. Starr told local media if the ACO isn’t charged in connection with Dojie’s maiming, he will take legal action.

(Thanks Clarice for the links.)

NM ACO Adopts Microchipped Lost Dog to New Owner

On December 31, 2013, a dog named Hogan escaped from his yard in Valencia Co, NM.  Owner Tracy Brooks had already microchipped Hogan and began posting lost dog ads online and putting up flyers around the county.  She also filed a lost dog report with her local shelter – Valencia Co AC.  One week later, Bosque Farms AC – a nearby village with one ACO on duty – picked up Hogan.  Bosque Farms says they scanned Hogan for a chip and checked the Valencia Co lost dog reports, coming up negative on both.  Bosque Farms AC normally works closely with Valencia Co AC and turns over unclaimed pets to the county after 72 hours.  But in this case, Bosque Farms adopted Hogan to a new owner, Susan Miertl:

She said Bosque Farms Animal Control told her the dog’s previous owners badly abused him based on the dog’s behavior.

Everybody’s an expert.

When Hogan, renamed Thor by Ms. Miertl, was taken to a vet, the vet scanned him and found his chip.  Although it’s not clear in the article exactly who contacted the Brooks family, the owners registered on the chip, they were apparently told where Hogan was living in Bernalillo County.  A member of the Brooks family went to Susan Miertl’s home and saw Hogan in the yard.  Ms. Miertl was not at home and Bernalillo County AC was contacted:

Bernalillo County said the dog jumped the fence and when Animal Control checked the microchip, it was registered to the Brooks family, so that is who they returned it to.

Handy, that fence jumping.

The original owners say they were threatened with animal abuse charges by the Bosque Farms ACO who also reportedly told the new owner not to return the dog to the alleged abusers.

Officials in Bosque Farms told KRQE they are not aware of any animal abuse claims or pending charges.

So at the end of all this drama, Hogan is back home with his original owners who fear retaliation for getting their dog back.  Ms. Miertl believes the dog she adopted has been returned to animal abusers and has filed a stolen dog report.

All this could have been avoided if the impounding ACO did his job by finding the chip and contacting the owners.  Failing that, he could have matched the dog up via the county’s lost dog report and contacted the owners.  And failing both those things, he could have followed the local ordinance requiring him to turn Hogan over to Valencia Co when he went unclaimed.  But apparently the Bosque Farms ACO didn’t do any of those things and instead took matters into his own hands, tossing in claims of animal abuse which no one in any official capacity knows anything about now.  Failure to do his job has left two families distraught, involved resources from multiple agencies and put a dog at the center of needless upset.  The article makes no mention of any disciplinary actions against the ACO who apparently failed to uphold his duties.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Rowan Co ACO Accused of Abusing Then Gassing Injured Pet

Bandit (photo by Jennifer Ridgell)

Bandit (photo by Jennifer Ridgell)

On January 9, a Good Samaritan in NC came across a dog who had been severely injured after being hit by a car and called 911.  Dispatchers called an ACO from the Rowan Co pet killing facility.  By the time the ACO arrived on scene, owner Jennifer Ridgell had been located and was crying over her dying pet who had accidentally escaped from the house earlier that day.  Bandit had been rescued 6 years ago and was a beloved family member.  But the Rowan Co ACO treated the badly injured dog like he was highway trash:

“He went to his truck, got a pole that had what looked like noose on the end of it, put it around his neck, jerked Bandit up — he was yelping — and threw him in the back of the truck,” Ridgell said. “There was no compassion.”

In addition to the cruel treatment Bandit received as he lay dying, the ACO further tortured the pet by placing him in the gas chamber after returning to the pound.  NC state law specifically prohibits the gassing of animals who are near death.

The Good Sam, Keisha Woodward, complained to Rowan Co officials by sending this letter:

To whom it my concern:
I have a Rowan County Animal Shelter complaint. I tried to leave a message for Officer Staton but he has yet to return my call.
January 9th, 2014 around 7:30 or 8 on 52 in Granite Quarry near Sides Auto I stopped to help a medium sized black/white male dog that had been hit by a car. He was partially laying in the road so I turned around, blocked him from oncoming traffic and applied my flashers. A passerby stopped to help me as I looked for the owners in the surrounding houses. In the mean time I called 911, they called animal control and he then called me to find out my location. The only thing he did right was show up promptly nothing else from that point was ok in my opinion!
The dog was unable to move his back end, the right eye was hanging out of the socket and he had blood coming out of his mouth but still seem to be calm. I petted him and talked to him until his owners could come down. When they arrived I told them I had called animal control and he was on the way. I assured them if they did not feel like they would be able to care for the dog that the officer would put him down.
The lady was pretty shaken up after seeing the condition of the dog. Shortly the officer pulled up. The only thing he said is are y’all the owners? They replied. He said do you want the dog or not? No more than she got out of her mouth I don’t think there is anything that can be done for him, the officer took that pole with the loop and yanked that poor dog up off the asphalt and slung him into the cage! The dog was hollering, the lady started screaming and crying, her husband was trying to get her turned around to get her in the truck so she didn’t have to witness anything further. The Officer acted as if was doing them a favor by not charging them to put the dog down… Are you kidding me!!
When he arrived and seen the condition of the dog and with their consent that poor animal should have been euthanized on the spot with an injection!!
I was completely traumatized by what I had just witnessed. He gave them no warning as to you may not want to watch this or anything! I can guarantee if they had known that was going to take place they would have taken him home and took care of it themselves and I can tell you if I would have known that was going to take place I would have called someone with a gun and would have taken care of it right then and there!
NO one should have to watch their animal be treated in this manner and that was NO way to handle and already traumatized, mangled animal that was in pain!
This has haunted my mind since January 9th and I think something should be done about this so it’s not to happen to another poor helpless animal nor and animal owner. There needs to be an injection taken and the animal needs to be put down on the spot in such cases as this.
If you’d like to contact me please do so.
Thank you,
Keisha Woodward

When contacted by the media about the incident, a county commissioner appears to acknowledge that Bandit was abused by the ACO:

“We’re sorry the family had to witness their animal suffering like that,” said Rowan County Commission vice chair Craig Pierce.

But when confronted about the apparent illegality of gassing a pet who was near death, Mr. Pierce offered:

“We are aware of it,” Pierce said.

Advocates say animal control should have used euthanasia by injection. Rowan County doesn’t have it yet, but Pierce said they soon will.

“If we have that on site, then we’re going to be able to give that animal a more humane ending,” he said.
[...]
The commission says they hope to transition to euthanasia by injection this year.

Rowan Co in fact does have euthanasia by injection on site, and has for some time as illustrated by county records (partially redacted by me) showing kittens who were killed via injection last year:

rowan co kitten
rowan co kitten 2
rowan co kitten 3

Jane Felts of the shelter pet advocacy group Fix Rowan followed up with her own complaint to county officials, demanding the termination of the ACO:

To Whom It May Concern,

I have reviewed the letter below from Keisha Woodward and frankly I am disgusted by her description of this incident. Actions such as those by Animal Control Officer Yaninas are unconscionable and in my opinion (and will be in the opinion of every other animal lover in Rowan County) not repairable by any disciplinary action less than termination. Incidents such as these cause people in the county to not call animal control in situations of neglect and cruelty where they need to be notified. THIS is a situation of cruelty perpetrated by a county employee. What she and this dog’s owners witnessed will stay in their minds forever. As if it were not bad enough to see their dog in such a bad state after being hit by a car what ACO Yaninas did to further this animal’s suffering and that of his owners is truly horrible. Is this the type of person that you want working for Rowan County? Frankly, I believe he should be prosecuted for what he did. This is also, sadly, not the first time that I have heard of such actions by this officer.

Further, Ms. Dee Lazenby was told by your ACO Thomas Staton that this animal had to be put in the gas chamber because you only had one employee available. Please explain that in light of the following section of the NC Animal Welfare Code which states that you must have two adults present to use the gas chamber:

02 NCAC 52J .0609 PERSONS REQUIRED TO BE PRESENT
A euthanasia chamber in a certified facility shall not be operated unless a Certified Euthanasia Technician or a veterinarian licensed in North Carolina and one other adult are present at the time of its use.

If this employee is not removed from his duties as an Animal Control Officer for the County of Rowan, what is now a private incident will quickly become public. Ms. Woodward and this animal’s owners are both willing to come forward and the media will be contacted.

I expect to receive a copy of the letter that is required to be sent to the state of NC when a certified euthanasia technician is terminated by next Friday, January 31st, 2014. This type of callous action towards animals should not and will not be tolerated. And if it is tolerated by the County of Rowan, then all citizens deserve to know that information.

02 NCAC 52J .0415 NOTICE OF TERMINATION
A certified facility shall notify the Animal Welfare Section in writing, no later than 10 days from the date of the termination of a Certified Euthanasia Technician’s employment or volunteer status at that certified facility.

Sincerely,
Jane Felts

If you want to contact Rowan Co commissioners regarding Bandit, please remember that respectful letters are far more effective at forcing transparency and reform. Threats of any kind are never acceptable.

I’m sorry our broken shelter system failed you Bandit. We need systemic reform now.

(Thanks Jane for sending me info and docs on this story.)

TN State Board Disciplines Campbell Co Pound

In April 2013, Campbell Co pound employee Brenda Watkins provided sworn testimony to alleged abuse she witnessed.  Among the allegations:

  • Pets were killed in their kennels in full view of other animals.
  • Animals were chokepoled and then jabbed in random areas of their body with syringes containing improper dosages of Fatal Plus.
  • Some animals took “quite awhile” to die, thrashing in their cages, spewing blood and feces.
  • Victims of the botched “euthanasia” procedures were placed into the freezer alive.

The TN Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners conducted its own investigation into the claims and apparently found them to be truthful.  Last month, the board placed the Campbell Co pound’s euthanasia license into a probationary category for at least one year.

The board had a long list of violations, among them professional incompetence, not using a euthanasia room separate from other animals, acts of dishonesty, and inappropriate use of lethal solutions.

“It sounds worse than it is,” says Campbell County Mayor William Baird.

Oh no he didn’t.

“We hope we got all the problems fixed,” Baird says.

We hope.  We can’t say we know all the problems are fixed because that would imply some sort of supernatural ability to know a thing that’s our job to know.  But we hope.  Because even in our darkest hour – which this is not, because it sounds worse than it is – erm, even in our medium-lightest hour, hope springs eternal.

I’m remembering when the Campbell Co deputy mayor blamed Those Meddling Kids for the problems at the pound and retaliated by refusing to do his job.  I’d really like to put the Campbell Co mayor into some sort of Ultimate Jerk Cage Match against the deputy mayor to see who wins.  It’s necessary.  Because otherwise we have an unsolvable mystery on our hands.

(Thanks Clarice for the link.)

Weird Tales: ACO Edition

Two stories from New England sent to me by Clarice – one recent and the other from spring of last year:

A CT newspaper received records via FOIA request pertaining to the November 2013 firing of an ACO in Stonington.  The sordid and somewhat confusing story behind the termination includes an allegation that former ACO Rae Jean Davis was stealing kittens from the shelter for her own personal rescue organization, of which she was the sole member.  When police investigators asked her about the rescue, she reportedly responded with an array of lies.

An ACO in Chittenden County, Vermont was spending some of his on-duty time offering women $20 to show him their breasts.  When police confronted 69 year old Gary Francis Sr. with the allegations in April 2013, he quit his job.  He was initially charged with two misdemeanor counts of prohibited acts while on duty but in May, he pleaded no contest to one count of a prohibited act.  Mr. Francis received a $100 fine.

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