Skepticism

Dog Vaccines Cause Dog Autism

This is the inevitable, hilarious result the anti-vaccination brigade deserves: an article in The Daily Fail about a batty organization called Canine Health Concern that says vaccinated dogs are getting autism just like Jenny McCarthy says happens to the widdle people babies.

The best part is that the organization’s Grand High Contessa of Dumbassness Catherine O’Driscoll gave the Fail some beautiful quotes, all of which appear to be lifted directly from the kooks at Age of Autism but cleverly reworded to change “bebbies” to “puppehs”:

We are not anti-vaccination. What we are saying is that currently our kids pets are receiving far too many.

The latest scientific research shows that after the first course of injections as a baby puppy most people dogs are immune against these diseases for at least seven years, if not for life.

Every year big Pharma pet vaccination companies hold National Vaccination Month, a national campaign when parents pet owners whose boosters have lapsed by 18 months or more are terrified into having their baby pet jabbed.

While the vast majority of doctors vets might simply not be aware of the latest scientific research, we are concerned that for a few undoubtedly doing multiple jabs is a way of making more money from worried parents pet owners.

They are not anti-vaccination, people! They’re just pro-fewer-vaccinations! For dogs! Dogs who get autism! Because they don’t come when called! Like Charlie, the autistic spaniel who “even bit Mrs Davis on the face and her husband Chris on the hand!” Because he was autistic! Not because they were dumbasses and he desperately wanted to be given away to a shelter that might find him a home with sensible people who are not dumbasses.

O’Driscoll also worries that rabbits and cats are at risk. Can you imagine a cat with autism? My god, it would stare off into space, be frightened by innocuous plastic bags, bite you with no provocation, and not come when called by name. HOLY SHIT PEOPLE! Don’t even get me started on the poor autistic bunnies, obsessively counting poop pellets and watching People’s Court.

It’s tough to laugh at parents who are worried about vaccines giving their kids autism. It’s an understandable worry if you’re ignorant of the science. But this? Please mock this. There is nothing about this article that is not mockable. In fact, this article is so mockable that I believe that it was written by a skeptic hoping to show the anti-vaxx propaganda for the idiocy that it is.
And for the record, no. The scientific evidence does not back any of that crazy bat’s accusations.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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69 Comments

  1. Check out the CHC’s website, for future lols:
    http://www.canine-health-concern.org.uk/

    Including
    – Pet homeopathy!
    – Pet Emotional Freedom Technique!
    – Pet Power of Prayer!

    Seriously, I’m about 90% certain that whole Daily Mail article is just another example of a kooky charity saying something bonkers in a press release to grab headlines – just like PeTA, Generation Rescue et al.

    Give us this day our Daily Mail, and forgive us not our skepticism.

  2. I think my vaccinations gave me presentiment as a side effect of the autism I got from them, but I was JUST commenting about this exact issue earlier this week.

    If this organization/writer IS a Poe, it raises the question of whether or not antivaxxers actually do vaccinate their pets, or if this is even a concern amongst people with the antivaxx inclination.

  3. This is so hilarious but so sad at the same time. We need a new word just for that. I hate to think about all the dogs and cats who will get easily-preventable diseases because their owners are afraid that they’ll act like dogs and cats. And rabies could even spread to people if pets start getting it.

  4. Within moments of my conure receiving her Polyoma virus vaccine, I watched the light go out of her eyes. I tried to tell myself that she was just an Indigo parrot but now I realize the awful truth. My parrot has autism.
    Happily she is responding to a gluten free, organic diet.

  5. @marilove:

    Do canines with autism act like cats?

    I have a cat that acts like a dog. Now what does that say about him? FWIW, he also likes to sleep inside plastic bags for some reason, and he gets way too excited after using his litter box. Also, he catches leaves like he thinks they’re alive or something.

  6. @catgirl:

    Most cats like plastic bags. A lot. One of my cats will chew on plastic bags all day long if I let him. Actually, anything plastic, including my shower curtain.

    http://www.answerbag.com/q_view/442001 <– I'm not sure how true the "rendered fat" thing is, but it might make sense.

    But cats like plastic, yes, and it is hilarious, except of course for the fact that my shower curtain now has teeth holes in it. Which is less hilarious.

  7. Pets with autism…This is an entirely new level of fail. Highly mockable.

    However….There is some evidence to suggest that rabies vaccine may not need to be administered as often as it currently is today, by law.

    There have been many reports by vets and dog owners of “knots” or “lumps” appearing at sites where dogs have been vaccinated multiple times over the years. Now, what this means, if anything, is under investigation. No one knows exactly what’s going on with it yet.

  8. My cats may not be autistic, but they show characteristics of some sort of developmental delay for sure. They can’t read or write (the two year old I understand but the other one is eight, and he hasn’t even shown signs of interest), they’re non-verbal, they need a facilitator to provide for even their most basic needs, and neither one has even tried to hold down a job (a financial burden on me and the missus for sure). I just thank god every day that we will outlive both of those furry little retards by decades; they’d surely die without us.

  9. @marilove:

    Thanks for that link. I don’t think it’s weird that my cat likes plastic; it’s weird that he likes to sleep inside a plastic bag, and I let him do that. I figure if he hasn’t suffocated by now, he probably knows what he’s doing. But I like to joke that this is why I should never have kids.

    I was also making the point that animals are so strange to begin with, it’s hard to determine when something is “wrong” with them, especially if it’s a behavior or development-related disease in humans. I anthropomorphize animals way too much, but even I realize that I don’t need to worry when my pet doesn’t act like a human should.

  10. one of my biggest peeves is animal activists who claim to be “non-speciesist” and then treat animals like little people. It’s like saying “I’m not racist, I treat everyone like they’re white!” with the added absurdity of dealing with an entirely different species with a practically unknowable level of cognition (besides really basic stuff like general self-awareness and pain perception).

  11. @Ubermoogle:

    If this organization/writer IS a Poe, it raises the question of whether or not antivaxxers actually do vaccinate their pets, or if this is even a concern amongst people with the antivaxx inclination.

    They do not. I used to work with dogs and required that they were vaccinated before entering our facility. Every day I had to deal with angry phone calls and letters to corporate because people insisted that if it was their choice not to vax their pet, we had no business interfering with that.

    If they got belligerent, I would respond that I agreed and they could take their pet elsewhere… to a place that doesn’t care about the health and safety of their dog or any of the other dogs in that facility. I’d also ask them to let me know if such a place exists because I’d like to have it shut down.

    And you’d be surprised at how hard it is to explain herd immunity to a person trying to get their pet into a literal herd.

  12. It’s all fun and games until you read the comments under the Mail story.

    “OMG!!1! The vet charged me for a medical treatment of my little Boogers! They’re all crooks!!1! I never got a distemper vaccination and I’m fine!1!”

  13. I especially like the sample article within the article where they owners stated they had “no idea what else it could be.” I’m willing to bet they never even tried to have the dog checked out by a vet or behavior specialist. Nope. Dog’s Autistic. That’s the only possible explanation.

  14. This sounds funny until you’ve actually seen a rabid animal. Thankfully I’ve never seen a rabid domestic animal but I’ve seen the disease in a few wild animals and it’s awful. Lets also not forget that it is virtually 100% FATAL in humans once symptoms appear (amazingly enough it’s vaccination after exposure that prevent people dying a horrible death).

  15. One of my cats likes to swallow the cellulose string the newspaper comes wrapped in. We have to be vigilant on Sunday mornings. The other cat is a scaredy cat – must have been all those vaccinations. Or maybe just the childhood trauma of being cast out to fend for herself as a kitten.

    Cat Fancy magazine occasionally has articles on homeopathy. Seems to me that homeopathic “vets” are more in it for the money than anything else – I mean, selling bottles of water + a molecule for $$$?

    A previous cat was willing to make a complete fool of himself for cantaloupe. Yes, the melon. He acted as if it were catnip, with all the licking and purring and goggle eyes. There are times I wish it had that effect on humans.

  16. This makes so much sense! As a kid, we got my dog vaccinated. Before that, she’d been steadily hitting all the puppy milestones: opening her eyes, walking around, eating solid food, being housebroken. But just a few years after those vaccinations, she regressed. She couldn’t control her bowels, she had trouble just walking around, and even when her eyes were open, it was like she couldn’t see anything! Finally, those nasty puppy-killers “euthanized” her!

    Now I realize that “old age” and “cataracts” were just the lies of Big Veterinary, who injured my poor dog with their unnecessary vaccinations and then killed her to dispose of the evidence!

    I’ve learned my lesson now. From now on, I’m only feeding my uninjured dogs Kibbles & Bits & Lupron!

  17. Don’t even get me started on the poor autistic bunnies, obsessively counting poop pellets and watching People’s Court.

    For the record, my girlfriend swears that her late lamented pet bunny Altair preferred watching Stargate and COPS. She also says that the rabbit’s musical tastes apparently favored reggae, of all things. Go figure.

    And while Altair didn’t obsessively count poop pellets, she did obsessively overgroom her guinea pig cagemate, to the point of leaving bald spots where the poor critter’s fur rosettes had been!

    I don’t think that the bunny was autistic, but it’s true that she was partially paralyzed due to strokes (or some such phenomenon), so she could perhaps have had some kind of brain damage as well — not that this would be easy to discern in a creature already harebrained.

    And, yes, ALL of the above is absolutely true.

    ~Wordplayer

  18. @Wordplayer: My cats will happily sit and watch Big Cat Diary. Iz tends to jump onto the TV table and pat at the screen when the lions come on. It’s weird, in that she’s far closer to a tiger in looks. Kiri just watches from the edge of the bed, as she trusts no one who does not provide food.

  19. This is absolute bullshit. I worked as a vet tech for 4 years and never once did I see a dog become autistic because of vaccinations.

    With Charlie, his behaviour sounds very similar to a syndrome called Spaniel Rage which is a mental disorder in spaniels (though usually in cocker spaniels) where they just snap and become aggressive for no reason what so ever. It isn’t autism and it isn’t caused by vaccinations.

  20. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard of anti-vaccination in the domestic animal realm, but it is definitely the first time I’ve heard of it being due to autistic animals. Wtf? It’s one of those arguments that are too stupid to spend time debunking/addressing. What sucks is that people who actually buy into this are guaranteed followers for other kinds of pet woo. Such as acupunture for pets. Alas, a brilliant idea is born: let’s go stick needles in some dog that hasn’t been vaccinated for rabies.

  21. I met a pet psychic the other day. I am SURE she could tell if the dogs mental powers have suffered. When she told me she had been ripping people for 8 years (in the last town she lived in) I for once wasn’t sorry for my ADD outburst, ‘You scammed money from people for 8 years and your bragging about it? No, I will not house sit your dogs.’ I wonder where my last dog, a Border Collie, got his ADD from though. He exhibited all the signs. I miss him.

  22. The worst part of that article is that some of the things she says have some basis in fact. A good vet will discuss your dog’s risk factors and decide which vaccines are appropriate. All dogs need the DHPP (distemper, adenovirus, parvo, parainfluenza) vaccine and the rabies vaccine. I recommend that most get the bordetella vaccine, but it is only 70% effective and only against one of the agents that causes kennel cough. If a dog is being exposed to strange dogs (boarding, grooming, dog park, dog shows) s/he should get bordetella. The leptospirosis vaccine used to be standard, but due to reports of severe vaccine reactions, and the fact that we never saw the disease, we stopped giving it. Then lepto came back. It’s a terrible disease that shuts down their kidneys and is contagious to people. I never give the lyme disease vaccine because, like most vaccines against bacteria, it does not prevent the disease, just make the signs less severe. Since the test for Lyme is an antibody test, the vaccine makes dogs test positive. Also, there is a condition called Lyme Nephritis, where Lyme antibodies and antigens form precipitates in the tubules of the kidneys and damage them. So there is concern that the vaccine could cause this condition, or worsen it if the dog developed the disease.

    I have seen my less reputable colleagues give every vaccine available to every dog. Face it, the chihuahua that lives indoors and only leaves the house to go to the vet does not need the snakebite vaccine!

    DHPP should be given every 3-4 wks from ages 6 wks to 4 mos, then at 1 year, then every 3 years after that. It is possible that it lasts longer than 3 years, but the vaccine companies have no incentive to study that. The puppy series exists because the vaccine has to fight against maternal antibodies. Ironically, since vaccines have improved, so has maternal antibody, so we now have to vaccinate puppies longer than we used to. And I have seen a lot of parvo in puppies that got one or two shots, but didn’t complete the series. Pit bulls and rottweillers seem especially susceptible, but that hasn’t been studied to my knowledge. Parvo and distemper are practically unheard of in dogs over 2 that have received their vaccines as directed.

    Dogs develop a very strong response to the rabies vaccine, so they only need one at 3-4 mos of age (3 mos medically, but some states require that it be given after 4 mos), then at 1 year, then every 3 years (unless local law dictates that it be given more often.)

    These rules were developed by the American Animal Hospital Association. Every few years they get together to revise the recommendations based on the current literature.

    Regarding titers (blood tests to measure the amount of antibody present), they’re all fine and good, but since no one has studied the amount of antibody needed to protect an animal, the numbers are meaningless.

    It’s frustrating to be an evidence-based vet, because often the studies just haven’t been done.

    (That was a long entry! Sorry!)

  23. As soon as I saw that a Spaniel was mentioned in the article the truth revealed itself. Spaniel breeds are well known to suffer from a number of congenital genetic disorders such as Hydrocephalus among others. These have been propagated by poor breeding practices for type rather than health of the animal. In more severe cases the poor dogs skull is too small for its brain which as you could imagine leads to some very strange behaviour and/or death.

    On second thoughts this explains anti-vaxers.

  24. @Riayn: Spaniel Rage? SPANIEL RAGE?!

    Band name?
    Superhero?
    Firstborn’s name?

    I almost WISH this was transferrable to humans.

    “Oh don’t mind Jim’s temper this morning, he just has a touch of spaniel rage.”
    “oh yeah, my grandmother had a bit of that last month. She was downright vicious!”

  25. @DominEditrix: My ancient Siamese cat loves watching the Croc Hunter. Go figure.

    I have photographic proof of it: We have a picture of him taken several years ago, staring at the TV at close range after having climbed up on a table to get to it. Steve Irwin and a croc are clearly visible on the screen. Must have been the activity and motion…

  26. I’m anti-animal slavery. (No, I hate PETA, it’s just an issue we are somewhat on the same page about, although I would never advocate killing pets because they would be “better off”. The stupid gits.) I think if these people REALLY cared about animals they would not have pets.

  27. @gwenny: What do we do with the large population of domestic dogs in that case? Or gerbils? Or hamsters? (I don’t mention cats because they’ll go feral at the drop of a hat, and generally be no more of a nuisance than any other wild animal)

    This is the problem I find with a lot of vegetarians and animal rights activists… if we stop “exploiting” animals, what do we do with the ones we have? No one is going to take care of these animals out of the goodness of their heart… they’re expensive to maintain and care for, and generations of breeding have left them good for little more than eating, shitting, and being eaten. Right now, people do it because it is (barely) economically viable. Remove that motivation, and you’re going to be reliant on donations, both of land and money. If you don’t GET those donations, you’re either looking at a mass slaughter to get rid of these wastes of land (i.e. money) or letting them wander free and get hit by trucks.

    As for “if you really care about animals, you would not have pets”, that is likewise bullshit. My cat has a projected lifespan of around 20 years. She’s an indoor cat, spayed, with all of her shots. Barring accidents, she’s going to have a long life where the worst that happens to her is a) I forget to fill her bowl immediately, b) my niece traumatizes her before she can escape to a safe place or c) she is denied the pleasure of sitting with her face up my nose because I’m doing something else. She’s loved, she has a warm place to sleep, plenty of food and water, protection from predators, and a good deal of protection from parasites. Compare her to her feral sisters, and tell me again that, if I loved animals, I’d leave them to starve in the wild, instead of cared for in a home.

  28. @Mark Hall: “if we stop “exploiting” animals, what do we do with the ones we have?”

    If you’re talking about everyone suddenly deciding to go veg and all the poor pigs and cows and whatnot left to fend for themselves, I think you must know that’s a bit silly. As fewer people eat meat, the demand decreases, fewer animals are bred for meat, and less land is used for meat.

    I agree about the pet thing though. I am completely against breeding animals for pets as I think it’s a pointless luxury. But people should be encouraged to adopt the animals that are currently filling up shelters . . . it’s a much better life to be loved inside a home than to be ignored in a cage.

  29. huh, if I’d have known my animals were slaves I would have made them start doing work a long time ago. Here I had thought we had a mutually beneficial relationship in which they have to do fuck-all to survive and I get an occassional lap warmer.

    Alright, sometimes I put fake moustaches on them for my amusement, but I like to think they get a kick out of it too. I’m sure every wild cat dreams of one day having a moustache of his own.

  30. @Riayn: “Spaniel Rage”? I didn’t know there was an official name for it now.

    My late companion Marsha had a cocker spaniel that went ballistic that way a few times (which was very distressing). Her vet told us that cockers and, to a lesser extent, springer spaniels were susceptible to this apparently random, quasi-epileptic rage fit, which he personally called “Cocker Freak-Out Syndrome.”

    “Spaniel Rage” sounds a bit more professi0nal, I guess, but I prefer the other name; it’s more colorful.

    ~Wordplayer

  31. @Rebecca:

    But people should be encouraged to adopt the animals that are currently filling up shelters . . . it’s a much better life to be loved inside a home than to be ignored in a cage.

    Or be euthanised because the shelter has limited room and can only keep animals for a limited time. Isadora was on her last day when I turned around and there she was, looking forlorn. The clerk at the desk told me she was so relieved that I was taking her – all the rest of her litter had been adopted fairly quickly – Izzi was the only one left and had outstayed her welcome.

  32. @Rebecca: I am completely against breeding animals for pets as I think it’s a pointless luxury.
    ——-
    So are alcoholic beverages. If you don’t want to buy a bred pet, and you want to encourage others not to do so, fine. But being against pointless luxury is just weird.

  33. @gwenny: I think if these people REALLY cared about animals they would not have pets.

    ——-

    Oh, bullshit.

    Dogs and cats are not people. Dogs are pack animals. When we “own” a dog, we are simply giving a pack animal a place in our pack and a role to play in that pack. The dog receives the things it craves: affection, food, safety and purpose, and we receive the benefit of having an on-site wolf to deal with our cats, hunt rats, or just be our companion.

    Calling this relationship “exploitation” is pointless romanticism. A dog’s life is no more exploitive than the role of any gamma wolf in the wild, consigned to a life of guarding other wolves’ offspring and having its throat torn out if it attempts to mate.

  34. @gwenny:
    Before you refer to dogs’ status as pets as slavery, you should consider that there is evidence that humans and dogs co-evolved in a mutually beneficial relationship. Dogs are thought to be the first domesticated animal. If it is true that wild dogs joined clans of early humans, then our relationship is mutual and not slavery.

    Schleidt, W.M.and Shalter, M.D. Co-evolution of humans and canid. Evolution and Cognition 9(1) 57-72, 2003.

  35. Seth, I can’t figure out if you really missed my point so completely or if you honestly think that someone having a drink is equivalent to breeding an animal that already suffers from overpopulation so much that we have to kill thousands of them a day.

  36. @Glow-Orb: You nailed it. I came in here to make a similar post about symbiosis and co-evolution but you beat me to it.

    To add to it: refering to it to slavery is entirely “speciesist” because you’re putting their experience in an entirely human context and ignoring the evolutionary forces that drive an animal’s behavior. Cats and dogs don’t want to write the great american novel, or hitchhike across europe. As far as I can tell (though I am hesitant to even make these assumptions), they want food, something warm to sit near, and a pack to be a part of. Calling this slavery assumes a whole hell of a lot about a cat’s concept of freedom, time, ownership, desire, suffering, self, etc, etc, etc. We’re exploiting them in the same way a shark exploits a remora or, for that matter, we exploit the bacteria that processes our food.

    I don’t know what your background is, Gwenny (though I’ll admit I assume anyone who uses the term “animal slavery” is pretty naive) but I’d suggest taking some sort of animal behavior course that goes into the varying levels of cognition in different species and the evolutionary forces that drive their behavior. The level of awareness that humans have is pretty unique (as far as we can tell) in the animal kingdom, and it’s downright disrespectful to treat other animals as if they prioritize things the same way we do.

    @rebecca: agreed. Dogs and Cats fuck well enough by themselves, we don’t need someone to crank out more. I agree with breeding things for a purpose (it’s how we got domesticated animals in the first place), but breeding retarded, diseased dogs just to satisfy an aesthetic preference for a certain breed is not something I support. It’s a hard thing to argue against from a purely rational standpoint, so I’m sure seth will have an unbeatable comeback, but I don’t like it.

  37. I feed a couple of feral cats that live near my house. They have been fixed,tested, and given shots by a nonprofit group that catches and fixes feral cats and then releases them where they were caught. They notch off a corner of their ear to indicate they have been caught before.
    I started feeding them because I felt sorry for them trying to catch birds and squirrels in my back yard. Sometimes they act like kids. If I put 2 bowls with the same thing and same amounts, the one cat will always want whichever bowl the other cat goes to and then they fight like h*ll. I tried to get them to come in my house when we had the huge snow storms but they would have none of that.

  38. Can I just express how sad the comments on the article are? There are 2 comments that are downvoted: the ones by a vet tech (IIRC) recommending vaccinations. The rest are along the lines of ‘I didn’t vaccinate my dog and it isn’t sick!’ Or my favorite, ‘rabies is wiped out from most of Europe. I don’t see the point in vaccinating!’ Ever heard of herd immunity? wtf?

    They have also shut the comments down…

  39. @Elyse: I can imagine that would be a problem actually. It just seems completely irresponsible, especially with some of the more fast acting and deadly diseases out there like Parvo or distemper. Or rabies.

    Then again, if they can’t be bothered to research the health effects it might have on their kids, researching the health of their pets must seem like Atlas’ burden…

  40. @mikerattlesnake: I’m not a rationalist. I’m a skeptic. There is a huge difference, which I detail here.

    That aside, if you want to make the argument that show breeds are an abomination unto Nuggan, and that you are therefore against it, I don’t really have a quarrel with that. You can be against abominations unto Nuggan all day. I actually agree that if you make your living breeding animals to the point where major congenital defects are the norm, you’re either engaged in important scientific research or you’re an asshole.

    However, Rebecca didn’t make that point, so that’s not the point I was responding to.

  41. FWIW, among “purebred” (i.e. inbred) dogs, major congenital defects are the norm. They are often even the breed standard. I am thinking in particular of brachycephalics like bulldogs and pugs, who have to have surgery on their palate, larynx. and nares in order to breathe comfortably. Also King Charles Cavalier Spaniels that have such a small gene pool that 100% of them have heart disease by age 7.

  42. I had to go look up that Cavalier King Charles stat and I had it wrong. 60% have degenerative valve disease by age 4. 100% by age 10.

    J Am Vet Med Assoc. 1993 Oct 1;203(7):1023-9. Chronic mitral valve disease in cavalier King Charles spaniels: 95 cases (1987-1991)

  43. @Rebecca: So, this ‘thinking critically’ you mention… is the method that I take what you actually say and then just substitute something that I think sounds more reasonable, or should I just assume that whatever you said was brilliant? :P

  44. @sethmanapio: “So, this ‘thinking critically’ you mention… is the method that I take what you actually say and then just substitute something that I think sounds more reasonable, or should I just assume that whatever you said was brilliant?”

    Jesus, you sound like an alien attempting to understand human communication for the first time.

  45. @Rebecca: I guess so. I was given the impression that a smiley face with a tongue out was a sign among your people that I was just giving you shit, but apparently, it actually means “And I’m DAMN SERIOUS ABTOU THS CMMENT!!!!!”

    My bad, dude.

  46. @sethmanapio:
    Wow.
    Well, with a response like that, I’m barely doing this thread justice by responding (or is it feeding?), and I shouldn’t need too explain to you what passive aggression means. You struck first at Rebecca, not the other way around.

    And here I am continuing it. *sigh* I should know better.

  47. @Some Canadian Skeptic: Ah! Okay, so order is important here! I started it, therefore, I am the rude one.

    Got it. It’s passive agressive* and bad of me to make a joke about Rebecca’s post, but it’s okay for you to imply that I’m a troll, because…

    Wait… you started this with me. Now I’m all confused again. Are you being rude now?

    * In case you missed the joke** in the last post, Rebecca called me an alien. So I’m not saying that you’re inhuman, I’m referencing her comment about me.

    ** Well, I’m amused.

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