The Reasons Why People Abandon Pets at Animal Shelters

I worked at a shelter for five years and I can assure you I have heard every one of these reasons why people bring in their own pets to the shelter to surrender them.


  • Moving and cannot take the pet with us. In most cases this is the result of people moving into a place where the landlord wouldn’t allow pets. One cannot help but wonder what they would do with their children if they decided to move into a place that didn’t allow kids.


  • Pet was owned by a child who is not caring for it. Typically adults must be present when a pet is purchased or adopted, they put their own names on the sales paper or adoption paper. In this way they are accepting responsibility for the pet themselves, and by then giving this responsibility to a child they are not acting in the animals best interest. If a parent is not willing to assume some, or all, of the duties to care for the pet, they should not be getting it in the first place. That said, if the parent isn’t going to be responsible, how can they expect their child to?


  • Allergies. This is a feeble, but common, reason for getting rid of a pet. People fail to look into alternatives, such as discussing medications with their doctor. Almost thirty years ago my sister wanted a Keeshond, a fluffy, highly allergy causing dog. She was able to keep one because she received regular allergy shots, and I know allergy medications have been drastically improved since then.

 Animal Shelter by daveparker.

  • The dog became destructive. Nearly always this is human error. Dogs dig, bark, and destroy things, out of boredom. The smarter the breed the more likely it will be destructive if its mental needs are not met. Basically if your dog is destructive it needs to you give it something better to do.


  • The cat is not using its litter box. There are many reasons cats fail to use their litter box. Some of these reasons include the fact the cat was declawed, wrong choice of litter, poor placement of the litter box, or often a urinary tract infection, something a veterinarian could easily clear up. See below for a link to help with these and other problems.


  • The dog got too big. People often get cute pups on a whim, and really are not prepared for the full size of the dog. A general rule of thumb is that pups with big paws, will grow into large dogs. You got bigger didn’t you?

Puppy at the Animal Shelter by bossco.

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  1. This was very, very good B.
    How I wish people would take heed, seems to me it’s become more stupid now!

  2. Good one.

  3. It saddens me how people can just abandon pets like that.

  4. It is sad the way people treat their pets as property and not living beings with feeling. My Katie was a shelter dog. Excellent article.

  5. Very passionate post about animal pets. A great wake up call, Brenda.

  6. I want to clarify that this article is written strictly about owners surrendering their own pets, not about people who bring in strays to the shelter – all stray pets should be taken to the shelters, or reported, so they can be reunited with their owners.
    I also feel that any unwanted pets should be entrusted to the shelter for rehoming (or purebreds returned to their breeder) the general public lacks the ability to screen potential new ownwers.

  7. Thank you for sharing this important article.



    -Liane Schmidt.

  8. wow thanks

    I was needing it for Homework.

    thanks again

  9. I agree, people should “think” before they decide to get a pet in the first place, but I am absolutely appalled at some of Nelson’s comments/recommendations. First, Nelson asks what a family would do if they moved into a place that did not allow children. How dare Nelson, or anyone else, place a dog on the same level as that of a child? Of course, parents would make sure a new location was favorable for their children, but a dog is not a child, a dog is property–nothing more. When it comes to allergies, Nelson recommends medication! Allergy medications have side effects and a parent should NEVER risk a child’s health for the sake of a pet. Any parent who places the welfare of an animal ahead of that of a child isn’t fit to be a parent and should lose custody of their children. Then, and this is so unbelievable I had to go back and read it a second time, Nelson alleges even a large dog is not “an issue” when there’s a new baby in the house. Hasn’t anyone read all those cases of dogs (mostly large, but others not so large) maiming and killing babies and toddlers? What about the case just last December in Florida in which a 2-year-old toddler’s throat was torn out by the sweet, docile family Weimaraner that had been a part of the family for years before the child was born? Wait until some woman’s “large dog” kills her baby and cites Nelson’s assertion that the dog wouldn’t be “an issue” as the reason she didn’t get rid of it. Should this happen, and it will because many people are dumb enough to believe all the dog-oriented drivel people like Nelson spout, Nelson will have the opportunity to explain his/her harebrained claims to a jury!

  10. to GetReal!

    I live near Millet Alberta, a woman just drowned her two toddlers, perhaps you think we should ban women?

  11. B Nelson, I don’t see where anyone has said anything about banning anything, so what the heck are you talking about? Your comment makes no sense whatsoever, just like the comments in your original piece. I have raised and trained dogs for 40+ years and the reason so many people have problems with them, and the reasons there are so many dog attacks on children and adults, is because of people like you, people who try to turn animals into humans and encourage others to do the same. Dogs misbehave and attack because they have not been taught to respect human beings. People like you should not be allowed to own a dog because you are incapable of setting boundaries. Dogs are NOT family members and attempting to turn them into something they are not is doing yourself, other family members, anyone who comes into contact with the dog, and the dog itself, a disservice.

  12. to Adeline. I was pointing out the the person earlier who was saying that large dogs are dangerous, my point being that there are LOTS of dangers. Kids should NOT be left alone with any dog, larger or small.

    Where did I suggest turning pets into humans (by the way humans ARE animals)?
    The reasons why there are some attacks on humans is because of poor owners, poor breeders, and people who trust their dogs too much, and who trust their kids too much.

    By the way I do not own a dog. I own a far more dangerous pet… I own a donkey.

    If you have ever been to a shelter you know full well that these are the some of the most common reasons given for people getting rid of their pets, like it or not.

  13. I hate how stupid ass people abandon pets because if it was their stupid ass that would not like it one bit so why do it to an animal. people might be so stupid that they drop their own child in the woods. That is what i think of.

  14. agreed!!

  15. i agree preech on

  16. I am in a catch 22, we love our dog dearly, but my son has had issues since birth and we couldn’t figure out why, well we took him to an allergist and he is allergic. They were pretty clear that we can’t keep our girl, and now we’re just not sure what to do. We adopted her from a shelter when we first got married, and our son came three years later. Any advice?

  17. to MDef

    it is tough.. sadly more kids are having allergic reactions to pets but experts also say kids exposed to pets at young age have fewer cases of allergies and asthema and it is actually the unnatural allergens that are the problem..

    having said that though, contact the shelter you got the dog from, ask them what the policy is if you cannot keep the dog

  18. There are other reasons
    I adore dogs and would home any stray i found.
    That being said our dog we have had for a few yrs and loved and looked fter — my wife realy never liked her – Unforutnately my wife has OCD and however much she is fighting this illness she is constantly cleaning the dogs hairs, or after cleaning the floors the dog brings mud in. We have tried everything including constant pro-grooming to minimise hair mess
    HOWEVER its become such a big issue and is greatly depressing my wife.
    On top of this i have a spinal disease which is degenerative and if im completley honest with myself, its getting too hard to look after our dog and our kids as well.

    The kids and the wife have to be my top priority and its killing me to the point this has been the main source of arguments between me and my wife for four years.

    I realised lately just how much i do love my wife and even though i klove the dog greatly its obviously not the same

    I cannot find a home anytime soon for our dog and its looking like a shelter is the only option left.

    This is killing me however seems thats what i gotta do to start making us a better life.

    So please understand, not EVERYONE who gives away a pet is selfish or doesnt love animals and all the other comments — sometimes there is just no other option.

  19. why people do it i honestly don’t know. so please. if you see an abandon dog. please contact a animal shelter :) .. thanks

  20. Clearly, Olly, your wife’s illness and your own well-being should not be a concern at all. You are a selfish moron and you clearly didn’t plan ahead. Shouldn’t you have know that you’d contract a degenerative disease? Also, you said that your kids and wife should be your priority at the expense of your dog — but why should that be? Why would your human family be more important than your dog? How selfish! You said that your wife is depressed by having to deal with the dog but have you considered putting her on Prozac?
    I shudder to think what you would do if it were your children that were exacerbating your wife’s illness. What would you do then? Would you put your kids up for adoption, huh? Because dogs and kids are exactly the same.

  21. Well said. You and B. Nelson are two of a kind! LOL! (For you lame-brained dog freaks who think “Rex” is one of you — He was being facetious!)

  22. I agree that not everyone has a choice to give up their pet…we have had our cat for 12 yrs and now our son is allergic. He’s on meds for it but not helping much at all. Plus meds for a child are not a great solution. The cat’s got to go, but I can’t seem to make myself take her to a shelter, can’t find anyone to take her although she is sweet, fixed and declawed, but older cats are not sought. The author here seems to say “Accept the fact that you are going to be a pet killer.” and/or “You should have thought of that before adopting that pet from a shelter” Great …this article didn’t give soltions, just criticism for those whose life changes and are stuck between loving a pet and living in misery/illness. We are crazy about animals in this country, spending more on them than most countries can spend on children. We coud all use to spend some time looking at how children are cared for in this country…that’s 100 times more shameful than euthanizing pets. We need to get over ourselves and look at helping some people before criticizing those who are trying to do thing.

  23. PS:If people didn\’t realize he was being facetious, they don\’t know what it means either! Sorry, just pointing that out…;)

  24. to Leanne
    You point out that the article didnt offer options. Read the title, the title isnt caled How Not to Abandon Pets at Animal Shelters.. its called the Reasons Why…
    And to argue about care for children, again this article is not about that.. its clearly about pets.
    Too many people complain about how much money some people spend on pets, what about how much money some people spend on clothing, shoes, cars, spa appointments, hair cuts, dining out, why does it always come down to pets? If you want to help kids in other countries PLEASE go right ahead.

  25. I think this is a useful article for anyone considering getting a pet. If people are aware of potential problems beforehand, they can more accurately judge whether or not they’re really ready for a pet. It’s foolish to get a puppy without knowing how to train one or even knowing how big he’ll end up unless you already have room and energy for a large breed.

    And anyone getting a cat should learn about feline behavior (cats aren’t dogs!) so they’ll know how to solve potential problems like urinating outside the litter box or scratching the furniture. It should be obvious, but some people seem to think pets are just home decor and require no interaction.

    Of course, some people end up in extremely difficult situations and can’t keep their pet, but other people should never have had a pet in the first place.

  26. I think you’re being very insensitive to the millions of people across the country who are losing their homes due to bankruptcy and foreclosure, and are unable to find an apartment where they can have their pets.

    It’s illegal to refuse an apartment to someone who has children, so your argument doesn’t make any sense.

    There are millions of people who took very good care of their pets, and tried their hardest to find a new home where they could have them.

    I hope you’re never in the same situation.

  27. to Homeless,
    This link is a factual one, and it is a fact that this is one reason people abandon pets, other people have chosen to live in their car with their pets.
    You are only speaking for ONE country – the laws are not the same in every country in terms of apartments with kids.
    As for home closures – most of these were due to people buying homes with high mortgages. I bought a home while making LESS than what a welfare person would make, I had saved up so much money my mortage payments were lower than rent on the same home ($220 every 2 weeks was my mortage for a 3 bedroom home.
    I am not trying to be insensitive just stating some aweness factors.

  28. I am so, so tired of reading these self-righteous, indignant posts about how horrible of a person you are if you are trying to find a suitable solution to a pet problem. The condemnation without understanding and solutions is very easy with the anonymity of the internet.

    I have two older cats that no longer use the litter box. They urinate all over the house and defecate on the floor as well. We’ve taken them to the vet and they do not have contributing medical issues. We’ve tried multiple litter boxes we’ve tried all kinds of litter, we’ve used puppy piddle pads, I clean the litter boxes three times a day and still they pee on the floor.

    We’ve suffered through this for several years now because we want to be humane and do right by our cats but we’re at our wit’s end.

    One of our cats has now started peeing in our 2-year-old son’s room and on his books and bookshelf no less. So, when I read these self-righteous posts about how horrible of a person I am for wanting to deal with this, I get infuriated.

  29. to rustbeat, where does it say you are a horrible person? this link is about the reasons pets are surrendered to shelters – you simply confirmed that failure to use the litter box is one such reason –

    I do think that dumping a problem pet on a shelter, rather than taking it to the vet for euthanasia (I assume the shelter ended up euthanizing your cats since older cats are hard to rehome – or if you took them to a no-kill shelter it would only mean the shelter had to refuse to safe another 2 cats).

    I have found a litter of kittens left in the hotel where I was working, I took them to the shelter. Another time my old cat started peeing in the house – due to being declawed by her pervious owner – I had her euthanized after going for 2 years with it and shutting all doors and so forth.

    You clearly feel guilty if you come here and say the link is condemning you, when it is simply stating a fact that YOU yourself confirmed – cats are dumped because they dont use their litter box.

  30. Of course I’m feeling guilty. I’m considering giving up my cats that I have lived with for almost 14 years. I have put up with this problem for almost 7 years now because I didn’t want to be inhumane. I’m at a breaking point and it is very difficult to know what to do. So yes, I’m racked with guilt about this. I don’t think its reasonable to allow these cats to keep urinating on my son’s things. I have read and read countless sites with the hope of finding a solution but all have the same condemning comments like “One cannot help but wonder what they would do with their children if they decided to move into a place that didn’t allow kids.” None have offered real, practical advice or empathy for the struggling pet owner. None seem to consider that there are situations that don’t fit into the view that you must not care about animals if you would consider giving up your pets. There are many situations that are far more complicated. I just need some reasonable, practical, advice and understanding. I’m not a careless or cruel person and I’m tired of websites that imply that.

  31. Rustbeat. The most cruel thing would have been to kept the cats kicking them, and punishing them… or turning them outside to survive on their own – even dumping them on a farm is very cruel (I know I live in the country – farmers often kill abandoned cats)

    Taking the cats to the shelter was a good option, the only better one would have been to take them to the vet for euthanasia yourself because it would have saved the shelter the trouble and expense.

    The link is not about how to prevent animals from being at shelters – it is about WHY they are there – people can figure out the rest per situation – as for the living situation. and struggling pet owners, my first husband died when our child was 5 yrs, we had no savings no insurance.. nothing… I started work – part time, minimum wage… what I was making was actually LESS than a welfare mom would have got, yet I kept all 4 of my cats,… so while YES there are suffering people out there – they always have choices, my choice was to eat soup for most meals – to save money. I had no cable TV, no internet, no cell phone,

  32. again Rustbeat, I am sorry for the loss of your cats, I do have a link about litter box issues in cats, and you may note that I do say to people that it is “okay” to take a cat for euthanasia if they cannot cope – as these cats are seldom rehomeable- you will note many comments against this, but also I did point out MANY reasons for this – and suggestions on what to do

  33. I think you misunderstood Brenda. I have not surrendered the cats. I still have them in my house. It must be said, that I have never kicked or punished my cats for not using the litter box. I have, however, tried everything on the list in the link you mentioned above. I have been searching for a solution and have yet to find one. I came upon your site while looking for answers. I guess I know the answer to my problem. It just seems so extreme. I was hoping to avoid the worst case scenario.

    So, I leave my comment here so that you and others may understand that the process of surrendering (or in the worst case, euthanizing) a pet may not be as simple or black and white as it seems. Surrendering a pet does not necessarily mean you don’t care for animals or are not willing to sacrifice for their well being. Its easy to paint the world with a wide brush for the sake of a blog post but the world is far more nuanced.

  34. okay , sorry rustbelt I thought you had surrendered them.

    I went through the same thing with my cat Ginger Bitz, she had been adopted at age 3 from a shelter, but after a while starting peeing all over – this being due to the fact her previous owners had her declawed, anyhow after several years she started pooping in the house too – now since I worked in a shelter I knew that many perfectly healthy and behaviorally sound cats are euthanized every week.. so why should I burden them with my cat too? I had her euthanized – yes it was very hard. again – as with you – this was after years of putting up with it and trying to fix it.
    It might be only one of your cats who is doing this – try to find out?
    I certainly never suspected you of kicking your cats, but I know many times when a cat is given up and goes for adoption – the new owner who finds it peeing in the house might respond in such a away as they are not attached to the pet.

    Good luck

  35. Dogs are not human but they are still feeling beings with love inside of them and they get attached to their families. I don’t understand the “dog is property” idea…I am sorry. That is not a kind or right way to view them. They are not “things” or “toys” to use until it’s not convenient for you. They are LIVING BEINGS with FEELINGS, NOT PROPERTY!

    The reason we have such a horrible situation with dogs and the reason they suffer so is because of attitudes like above. I am sorry, it’s not evolved or moral to me to treat a loving creature as property. Horrible.

  36. I think this article has a lot of useful information. I just wish it didn’t also have the judgmental comments. I can say from experience that a lot of people who decide not to keep an animal won’t take the animal to a proper institution and will just leave them by a roadside somewhere for fear of being judged. That’s exactly how they would feel reading this article, and that concerns me, as I think of the welfare of the animal that they can no longer care for. I’d much rather people feel that they can bring an animal someplace where it might have a chance to be readopted, then abandon them or even neglect them within their own homes. And, yes I feel the same way about kids. I think if people don’t want their kids, we should make it easy for them to give them up to an agency, no questions asked. That’s much better than keeping them and abusing or neglecting them.

    Great information, though. And if you are reading this article and thinking that you are not able to care for your pet, PLEASE bring them someplace appropriate, and don’t just let them suffer in your home, or leave them somewhere abandoned. Give your pet some chance to find happiness in another home.

  37. I am not a pet lover. I don’t like or dislike them, but would never be cruel to them. My situation is that I am caring for two cats and a dog that a young adult family member brought into my home. SHE was supposed to look after them, but guess who’s doing all the slave labor.

    i sincerely want my space without the animals slobbering all over me -not that it’s their fault.

    I’ve never had pets and never wanted them because the work never justified the return. I prefer to focus my love on people before animals.

  38. to annoyed
    You need to talk to the pet owner, and if they do not want to take their pets, pay you for looking after them, or come to some sort of agreement with you, then you can take the pets to the shelter and surrender them as abandoned animals. Sadly this does punish the pets in a way as they may not get new homes, bad owners are the problem. sorry.

  39. While I appreciate the information in this article, explaining the various reasons shelters receive unwanted pets, I agree with John — every item in this list seems to come with a judgmental attitude as to how the person is selfish, short-sighted, or cruel. On the other hand, in your replies to comments, you’re encouraging taking pets to shelters or euthanizing them rather than keeping them in a home that doesn’t want them — which, in my mind, is a more balanced viewpoint. I would think this article would be better if it presented that balanced view instead of judgment, since there are obviously good reasons why people have to get rid of a pet (as comments here have shown).

    The truth is, animals are not people. That’s a fact. If someone gets a pet, then regrets it later, it’s not cruel to euthanize or re-home that pet. As has been mentioned many many times, there are more pets than homes for pets, and to keep an unwanted pet alive in an environment where it’s a hardship is cruel to the pet and the owner. We personify our pets as if they are people, and this makes it difficult to make the right choice. But just remember, when your kitty goes to someone else’s house, it won’t mind. It just wants plenty of food and a warm place to lie down. It won’t miss you or hate you.

    Rustbelt, if your cats are causing you such grief, there’s a good chance that they aren’t happy either. If they’re 14 years old, they could just be getting elderly and are unable to control themselves, and/or reacting to stress somehow. Let’s say they were in pain or very sick, would you euthanize them out of mercy? All animals age, so that situation will happen eventually, very soon in fact since they’re so old. So perhaps it’s a good time for them to go, preemptively, when they’ve had a good long life and can pass away without suffering through months or years of pain first. They won’t hold it against you, I promise.

    I too am struggling with the decisions as to what to do with my cat. I know that the emotions I feel are in my head, not what she feels about me. But when she’s gone, there will be a hole in my heart, and it would be really difficult not to feel guilty and selfish. On the other hand, the difficulties I’m having affects the way I treat her, and that’s not a happy place for a pet to be either. Is it bad enough that re-homing or even euthanization is the answer? I don’t know.

    I guess it has to be up to each of us to make that decision, without being forced into a bad choice because we’re afraid of what people will think of us.

  40. Honestly, GetReal!, you’re a jerk. Like animals aren’t living creatures. You’re inhumane in your word choice. How dare Nelson, or anyone else, place a dog on the same level as that of a child? How dare you call them “property”? Dogs look up to their owners as a wolf in a pack looks up to a pack leader. Such wolves, and therefore dogs, would sacrifice their lives to save their leaders. If you left them behind, it is just like leaving a child behind. It means you are a monster, and you have no respect for loyalty and dependence as concepts. Next, if anyone is stupid enough to buy a dog before checking for allergies, they deserve to have such problems. And it is completely understandable for a parent to risk side effects for a dog. I will compare a dog to a child now, and if you still disagree with this practice, there is no way to convince you. If you make one child an orphan so that the other does not have to deal with some simple side effects.

    I have some questions for you.

    Do you have a dog?

    And if you do, did you only get it for your child? Since then, there is a parent’s bias influencing you, and this, you cannot deny.

    Are you human? And are you humane? Since there is a difference, you know. A human being feels bias towards their child or children. A humane being understands that all mammals, however intelligent, have emotions.

    What are you: human or humane?

  41. By the way, if you think a thirteen year old wouldn’t know enough to make an opinion, I am only backing up B Nelson’s opinions with facts. There is also the fact that all mammals have emotions. This involves their brains. Primates can do complex motor skills, some language development, and many other complicated skills. Mammals have the mammalian brain, which has emotions. Lesser brained chordates have the R complex, or the Reptilian brain, which controls basic functions such as fight or flight reactions. This proves that dogs are way more than just property.

  42. To annoyed-

    I personally keep people at an equal reputation as animals in my book, for however stupid animals are, people are stupider, since they used their intelligence for:

    1. Killing other people
    2. Coming up with religions which explain the workings of Earth and the Universe, which can be explained by science at this point, and sticking to such religions even after they are mostly disproved
    3. Jealousy and greed
    4. Creating money, which goes with the above, since if there was no greed, there would be no need for money, and therefore no such thing as poverty – in other words, people die because of the greed of others
    5. Arrogance and showing off

    In any situation, I would never choose a pet over a human, but I would not choose a human over a pet. I would be at a stand still. I could never love humans more than animals unless I knew the human for longer and they have helped and cared for me, for then they are my friend. If I knew the pet for longer, and they helped me (and believe me, the pets I had a long time ago before they died helped me at least feel better), I would love them more.

    Maybe you see no justified return for the work given for the animal because it does not love you. As I stated above to GetReal!, animals show loyalty to the leader – the person who shows love back. Maybe if you showed compassion to the pet, it would love you, and you would be able to truly love it.

  43. In layman’s terms, I hate people because they are arrogant, greedy, overly faithful and religious, jealous, and hate other people. If that means I hate myself, so be it.

  44. Four pets, part time minimum wage? It doesn’t add up. That part time minimum wage salary isn’t supporting four pets. The relatives, husband, or government assistance contributing funds to the poster’s survival are supporting the pets.
    That said, I agree people seem to be more self involved than when I was younger. I once chatted online with a woman who claimed she got a new dog every time she changed her decor, so the pet would color coordinate. Geez.
    I have two cats that I do support myself. I have never returned an animal to a shelter. But at the same time, I realize there are legitimate reasons to do so. If the people who are desperate are met with judgement and criticism, they will drop them in the country. I live in a rural area and have seen animals dumped. Dogs really do keep returning to the spot they were dropped, looking for their owners, and coyotes are a daily reality here, or nightly rather. All I ask is that people thoughtfully and mindfully consider what they are doing in light of karma, law of reciprocity, etc.

  45. to Cheryl
    It is not how much money you make that matters, it is how you spend it. I had no cable tv, no cell phone, no internet, my mortgage payment was less than rent (I had saved up money for years), I did not get money from relatives, my husband died when our daughter was 5 (he too only worked minimum wage prior) I did get a $425 orphan benefit/widow pension per month but still my total income per month was less than most welfare people got. I did not accept welfare to make up the difference, I just spent money smarter. All cats were spayed before I got them – thus saving a big expense.

  46. to Cheryl
    It is not how much money you make that matters, it is how you spend it. I had no cable tv, no cell phone, no internet, my mortgage payment was less than rent (I had saved up money for years), I did not get money from relatives, my husband died when our daughter was 5 (he too only worked minimum wage prior) I did get a $425 orphan benefit/widow pension per month but still my total income per month was less than most welfare people got. I did not accept welfare to make up the difference, I just spent money smarter. All cats were spayed before I got them – thus saving a big expense.

  47. Brenda, your lack of awareness into how judgemental this article is is astounding. This is not a factual article but a poorly written opinion piece. The judgemental tone says more about you than it does about pet owners who find themselves in the difficult situation of having to give up a pet.

  48. Hi Leonie.

    I worked at an animal shelter for 5 years, people wrote down why they were surrendering their pets. This article is a compilation of those statements, it may sound judgemental but is based on experience and facts.
    Go to any shelter and they will tell you the same thing.

    However I will say its best for people to surrender pets to the shelter if they cannot keep them rather than just letting them wander off as strays which is NOT responsible at all!

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