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The anti-pitbull breedist legislation

September 5, 2011

Behaviour, Favourite Articles, Hardships

Firstly, I would like to pay my deepest condolences to the Victorian family that witnessed their toddler attacked and killed by their neighbor’s pit bull. I totally empathize with the mourning of this Victorian family and definitely support stricter laws being enforced by the government. These laws should include harsher penalties for the owners of un-contained aggressive dogs to prevent any accidental injury or death.

Often the pet is euthanized after it has severely injured or killed another pet or even a human being and the owners of these un-contained animals are left off the hook.

These irresponsible pet owners should be trialled for manslaughter for their animal’s actions. They need to be held accountable for their pet’s behaviour.

I thought it was important to start by touching on the tipping factor that drove the Victorian government to spontaneously pass this new legislation that bans Pit Bull Terriers, Presa Canario, Dogo Argentino, Japanese Tosa and Fila Brasileiro.

While I totally understand the need for the government to take initiative at preventing any more horrid unnecessary dog attacks leading to human injury or death , I do not think they went about it the right away.

I do not support the passing of this breedist law and I will give you 10 good reasons for it:

1. Pit Bull Terriers condemned purely besed on their ability to cause lethal damage.

Any large breed dog is able to kill and should then automatically make it to the list. I have met quite a few aggressive German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Dobermans, even Great Danes and Staghounds and etc. They can cause just as much damage if not more than a Pit Bull Terrier.  However, I have also met many amazing loving sweet-natured large breed dogs. I am simply not a fan of stigmas and labelling of specific breeds!

2. Pit Bulls and their crosses carry the DNA to kill.

Well, German shepherds were bred to protect and that can also lead to accidental injury or even death. Basically each breed of dog was bred for a specific purpose but most of the dogs today are not being purchased for that purpose. Hence, the traits being sought after are no longer bred for and are fading away. I mean people don’t own golden retrievers because they want to use them to hunt, track and retrieve birds. They mostly own golden retrievers because they have become a very popular family pet. They want a retriever that will be happy to chase and retrieve bouncing balls.

3. Snappy little dogs free of charge.

What about the tiny, aggressive and snappy little critters like Chihuahuas, Pomeranians or Jack Russel Terriers, why do they get off easy? I guess they don’t consider them able to cause serious lethal damage. They can still definitely kill a toddler if they put their mind to it. Again, I have met so many adorable and cuddley little fluff balls and never assume every tiny pooch is going to snap at me.

4. Legislation passed without clear goals and guidelines.

The legislation passed is vague, unclear and only states the description of the breeds banned starting with the Pitt Bull Terrier. They have not devised any guidelines on the implementation of this new legislation and how it will be audited. If you own a Pit Bull or Pit Bull cross, will the ranger have the right to confiscate and assassinate your beloved well-trained loving pooch purely based on its breed? What is exactly being enforced? Based on the description listed in the standard for restricted breeds, basically any dog can be considered a pit bull cross. What about the DNA testing of the dogs, they have been shown not to be very accurate or reliable  and so who will be referred to as the breed expert?

5. Don’t judge a book by its cover.

There are many great and responsible pet owners out there. I mean check out ‘Kye’, one of our nurse’s dogs. He will run around greeting you with the most beautiful smile. I believe if he randomly went to greet a passerby on the street tomorrow, there will be an assumption he is bearing his teeth ready to kill them. This poor thing is a big sooky lah lah and the only time he has been reactive is when I have examined his very swollen and sore leg but his owner had great control over him. This brings me to the next point of the discussion.

Liqourice & Kye

6. Context of the situation not being considered.

Dogs don’t speak the human language and we sometimes expect too much of them. It does not help that there are a few pet owners out there that don’t even understand basic dog body language. So if a dog attacks a child, it is automatically considered an aggressive dog and the situation is not even evaluated and the poor canine is sacrificed without a fair trial! If a dog attacks a child that has been smacking the bejesus out of it, well what do you expect? Why was the child left with the dog without any adult supervision?

I mean, how often do you hear about child bullying that can often lead to the victim committing suicide. Are the bullies ever sentenced to death? No…so why are animals so easily disposed off. This new law is going to give counsel a green light to seize any dog that even slightly resembles a Pit Bull and so it can simply be declared a restricted breed and hence euthanized on those grounds. How is that fair?

Check out ‘Shepo’ my pooch looking all mortified because ‘Lewi’, our cat, decided to sunbake right next to him. Who do you think looks more worried  or ready to strike in the picture, my dog or cat? Just trying to drill in the thought that you should never draw out any conclusions without assessing the full context of the situation.

shepo & lewi

7. Vets not being directly involved in the legislation.

We are the ones ultimately having to deal with the dirty end of the deal. Why not instead give vets and rangers legal jurisdiction to enforce appropriate training and education for pet owners with aggressive/anxious dogs. Education goes a long way, even further than just penalties and fines. I have met many dangerous dogs at the vet clinic with owners that allow them to run around town without a lead on. I have often emphasized the importance of basket muzzle training these dogs to prevent any incidents but my advise falls on deaf ears. Some owners are proud of having very aggressive dogs.

Now, I honestly don’t want to get into whether owners should be allowed to own aggressive dogs or not because that’s a whole new topic of discussion. I just feel that these owners need to be well-educated and equipped to house such dangerous animals. They must be reliable and responsible pet owners. A good legislation would allow vets to inform council about any pet owners worth investigating to ensure these aggressive dogs are housed appropriately and managed well to prevent any incidents.

8. Vet mauled by dog never makes news headline.

People seem to tolerate the news of a vet being mauled by a canine much better than any other non-vet related dog attack. I find it very interesting that vets have not been given any authority or protection by legislation against aggressive dogs. The argument I suspect would be dogs feel threatened at the vet clinic and even the nicest of dogs can snap. Hence, it is not fair to assume a dog is aggressive in these circumstances. I totally agree because our job as vets is to examine our patients and this can lead to discomfort and pain.

I have had the nicest Labrador’s snap at me during a consultation. On the opposite spectrum, we have been faced with very dangerous large dogs that the owners are scared off and unable to control and they expect us to examine their pets. How? I mean if you can’t even restrain it, why would you think we are game to? On those grounds, many vets have simply refused to treat those animals and that is absolutely fair. I am not sure if we have legal backing for doing so and worse yet, we have not been informed that it is our legal duty to report these dogs to council as they pose a very high risk of an incident occurring!

9. Genetics definitely play a role in breed predisposition but two other major factors need to be considered.

The two other major contributing factors include environment and socialization. If you met my dog ‘Shep’ when I first adopted him four years ago and then you met him now, you would hardly recognise him as the same dog. When I first got him, he was a nervous wreck and would mouth your face when threatened and now he will lick you to death and is so sweet and loving. He is still a very obsessive compulsive dog (genetic predisposition: working dog) that will chase the ball all day if possible and try to shadow my every move but he is by no means dangerous.

The point I am trying to make is that dogs can be intensely influenced by their owners and upbringing. While a dog may be born with nervous tendencies, you can still make an honest dog out of him/her with the appropriate care and guidance.

So while Pit Bulls are predisposed to carrying the aggression gene, they can still turn out to be amazing loving and loyal dogs if owned by the appropriate owners. These are responsible dedicated pet owners that will socialize their dogs and expose them to a harmonious environment.  Some Pit Bulls will require more work and may never be considered non-aggressive. These unpredictable ones just like those very anxious German Shepherds or Bull terriers or any breed for that matter need to be housed appropriately and their owners should take full responsibility on preventing any incidents if they chose to keep them.

10. Dog breeding licence.

Not anyone should be allowed to breed. There should be a law requiring you to have a licence to breed a dog especially those that are high risk of potential injury and death to humans. The process of getting the licence should be difficult and include an educational part discussing dog body language and so forth. The aim will be to only allow the breeding of the well-natured bitches and sires and this will lead to the reduction of aggression in all types of breeds. This will ultimately really serve the community as a whole. It will open up opportunities to feel safe to own any type of dog as most are at low risk of developing/inheriting any fearful predispositions.

I finally leave you with  a picture of ‘Punchkin’ chewing on a massive bone that is almost twice his size. His teeth can cause serious damage but if you raise your tone of voice to him, he will cower, flip on his back and beg for mercy with his tail between his legs. Looking at his picture below does not tell you what a submissive dog he is, does it?

Punchkin is savage

I would love you to fill out a 4 question poll about this new law and I welcome all your feedback and comments.

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About Rayya

Hi I am Dr. Rayya. I created this site to take you on a journey of my life as a vet! I hope to inspire you, teach you, learn from you. Most importantly help pet owners and animals around the world by sharing pictures, videos and posts from my everyday experiences.

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44 Comments on “The anti-pitbull breedist legislation”

  1. Jodi Stone Says:

    I loved this post. Not because your government is banning pitbulls, but because you stood a solid stand against what they are doing.

    I have said all of those things that you said, any dog can bite and any dog (given the right opportunity) can kill. If you own a dog you MUST be responsible and monitor your dog.

    I have a 3 1/2 year old grandson and two labs, I would NEVER leave him alone with the dogs, whenever he interacts with the dogs we are there to monitor him and correct him if he isn’t being respective. It is called a responsible dog owner and it is the right thing to do.

    I also agree with you on limiting who can breed dogs and educating them before licensing them. It is spot on!

    Great post!!

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      I wish more pet owners were as reponsible as you…while labs are regarded as very kid friendly dogs, supervision should never be wavered..great to hear you enjoyed my post 🙂

      Reply

  2. becomingcliche Says:

    I am in total agreement with you, Rayya. Dangerous dog legislation rather than breed-specific legislation is the better way to go. My Rottweiler was the best-behaved dog I have had. Because I trained him and didn’t let him by with things, but my home-owner insurance wouldn’t cover us because other people made enormous mistakes and allowed the breed to develop a bad reputation.

    Not all pits are bad. Most are great dogs and in days gone by were used to watch the kids.

    If every dog owner understood that EVERY dog has the potential to hurt someone and took the necessary precautions (training, neutering, fencing, leashing, supervising around children), the world would be a much safer place.

    Reply

  3. Cowboy Says:

    Howdy Doc –
    I’m so glad you have voiced your thoughts, feelings, and opinions on this. The tragedy of all this for dog attack victims and the dogs themselves are often ramped up in the media and untrue rumors fly from people who have no idea about dog breeds or genetics.

    While genetics may minutely predispose some breeds to aggressive problems, I don’t believe any breed of dog is born a viscous dog. People make dogs viscous with their actions or lack of actions.

    Pit bull breed bans are in effect in effect in many cities here in the U.S.. Excellent post of information. Please post the results of the survey when completed.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      You have made an excellent point there that I did not to talk about…the media exaggerating the truth of the dog attacks leads to a very vicious circle…you are right, dogs are very influenced by their environment and upbringing…if they are poorly socialized and the crucial period is from 8 to 16 weeks of age in puppies, then you are rsulting in anxious dogs..I will definitely post the results of the survey tomorrow….

      Reply

  4. animalartist Says:

    Dr. Rayya, here is another point that a journalist brought up–most people can’t tell one breed from another. If you gave a test to the people who were supposed to enforce this law, could they pass it 100% by looking at a dog and identifying its breed? If someone already has a dog or gets a dog that looks like one that’s on the list even if it’s a total mutt? What happens to dogs in question? And does this solve the problem o f back yard breeders or puppy mills–I presume this also happens down under–where most of the aggressive dogs seem to come from?

    I really like your stance on the manslaughter charge for persons who keep knowingly aggressive dogs who do unfortunately end up mauling and killing a person or another pet.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      It is a very interesting point that you bring up…the DNA tests available are not 100 % accurate and breed recognition especially with cross breds is very subjective..I often cart around a unique mutt around the clinic whose owner would like guesses on its origin and I get a huge mix of different answers…so the whole process of recognizing a pitbull which is currently also known as a staffy is not reliable…the legislation is based on a fallacy and so it is seriously concerning as power can be abused and lead to unfair discrimination…

      Reply

  5. Alison Woollard Says:

    Agreed with all you said. What’s sad is that the responsibility of enforcing these new laws has fallen onto Local Government. Sure there is funding for it now, but what about next budget? It’s an ill conceived law pushed through to put out the fires of recent events but it hasn’t had full consultation or a full investigation of all the issues you highlighted. I firmly believe that it’s the owners, not the animal. Any dog can be dangerous in the wrong hands. They make you get a license to own a dangerous dog, but any idiot can have kids. What a strange world we live in!

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Alison you are right, what about funding? Very valid point especially because it reflects how impulsive this legislation was and how much it is lacking in depth…here I am pleading for a licence to breed dogs and children are giving birth to children…we surely live in a very interesting world…

      Reply

  6. Rosie Scribblah Says:

    We’ve had legislation against ‘dangerous’ breeds in the UK for some years. It doesn’t work because it’s almost impossible to police and these dogs become even more of a status symbol amongst the sort of violent anti-social yobs who want dogs to use as living weapons. Legislation just drives it underground. There should be much, much harsher penalties for irresponsible dog owners and the act of bringing up a dog to be used for violence should be classified as serious animal abuse. The dogs are not the problem and I agree with you Raaya, the owners should be prosecuted for manslaughter.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Rosie thanks for highlighting how this legislation really failed…I wish people could learn from other’s mistakes…let’s hope this legislation does not lead to the exact problems experienced in the UK…

      Reply

  7. nicole Says:

    wonderful post. i specifically agree with point seven. veterinarians should, indeed, be involved in the legislation regulating ownership of “dangerous” dogs. i wonder to what extent this would make the veterinarian liable, however, for any negative happenings such as the victorian child’s death. i will ask my smart attorney friend who loves pitbulls!

    last week, i observed my first “dog attack” where a pitbull friend of gwendolyn’s attacked a neighbor’s dog. it was very sad to see. the pitbull, bella, escaped from her gentle leader collar. i heard the “snap” of the strong collar, and then i heard two dogs (upscale dogs, nonetheless), fighting for their lives. i am just grateful that gwendolyn was already in the vehicle and out of harm’s way. so, my question is, bella the attacking pitbull has been the recipient of several private lessons with one of the best dog trainers around. the dog trainer was shocked to learn of what happened. how liable would this dog trainer / veterinarian be, if legislation granted them jurisdiction that you’re recommending?

    also, for the record, gwendolyn’s first canine friend was hayden, an amazing pitbull. he left the earth too soon, and we miss him dearly. xo

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Nicole I would love to know what your attorney friend says…It definitely can make it a bit sticky for vets but we need to be given more leverage to educate pet owners with potentially dangerous pets or to inform council! So sorry you had to witness bella get into another dog…it can happen even with the most well trained dogs, so long as you have full control of your dog! Wish bella had an gentle easy walker harness…glad gwendolyn is safe and sound…

      Reply

      • nicole Says:

        dr. rayya, i sent the oh-so-smart attorney friend an email yesterday! i will inform you of his response! but he’s so great that i bet he’ll comment directly on your blog! gwendolyn is, indeed, safe and sound. 🙂

      • Rayya The Vet Says:

        Nicole I really appreciate it…can’t wait to hear what he says..the legal system can be very interesting sometimes!

      • nicole Says:

        dr. rayya, i am still awaiting his response! i just sent a text that reads, “can you please respond to LAST week’s email? you are a SNAIL.” haha! 🙂 i shall update you accordingly!

  8. rumpydog Says:

    Some of our neighbors are afraid of me because I am a big dog and I look like a wolf. And while I might hurt a human child, it’s because I was trying to jump up and give the child a kiss. However, if I was not on a leash I would treat animals that ran in fear from me as prey, including small dogs. It’s important for people with dogs to follow the laws and to show consideration for others.

    I like how you talked about what might have led the dog to do what he did. Now I don’t know because I wasn’t there, but I will share this story. I was at the community dog park once. Our park has rules that include no children under 13 years in the park and large dogs should be kept separate from large dogs. But invariably there are people who do not follow the rules. A small dog was in the large dog section, someone threw a ball, a small dog chased the ball and so did I. The small dog picked up the ball and I picked up the small dog. Jen was HORRIFIED! The small dog was not injured and we left immediately. Should I be totally at fault for doing what dogs do in a place set aside for that activity?

    We don’t go to the park anymore except at off-times.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Playing with another dog is okay…unfortunately you are too big and you can easily injure your smaller furry friends.._if you are not used to playing with other dogs then you should just enjoy the company of your human friends…you are not at fault for what happened but unfortunately can be penalized for it…focus on playing with dogs your familiar with 🙂

      Reply

  9. Jackie Cangro Says:

    A wonderful, thoughtful post! After volunteering at numerous animal rescues and sanctuaries I’ve met some amazing pit bulls and pit bull type dogs. Each dog is an individual and should be treated as such. Discriminating against certain breeds because of how they look is no different than discriminating against people because of how they look.
    Responsible ownership is key.

    Reply

  10. Brenda Says:

    Why didn’t you mention pit bulls’ jaw strength?

    Your comments about chihuahuas were ridiculous as anyone who has studied them would tell you. They may scare a woman your size but they don’t kill toddlers whereas pit bulls will kill a toddler before anyone realizes what is happening.

    The fact you don’t realize labs are among the dogs who most often bite shows you aren’t really up enough on things to be dispensing advice. The largest insurer, State Farm, reported the majority of bites came from labs. They are too often too stupid to learn from what I have seen of them.

    Reply

    • Cowboy Says:

      My goodness Brenda – Why the hostility in your post ? –
      Any dog can kill a toddler given the same circumstances and if the parents are doing their job, any child would not be left alone with any dog regardless of what statistics say.

      I must assume you have never been around genetically well bred, properly socialized, and healthy pit bulls. I think you need to do some more research before you make rash statements with nothing solid to back it up with. State Farm insurance and most others insurance companies often fabricate erroneous statements and statistics to justify rate increases for each person that may be affected by the fabrication.

      Have a read at this link ( http://www.realpitbull.com/myths.html) before you embarrass yourself spouting hostility.

      I guess you’ve reached that point in life where there is just nothing else to learn – many of us strive to reach that point but most of us realize life is a long learning process. If we keep our mind and ears open and our mouth closed.

      By-the-way – Since you did mention the jaw strength of a pittie – please do tell everyone what that PSI is in a pittie and other breeds.

      Have a good night!

      Reply

      • walidmalaeb Says:

        I agree with you mate.. No matter what the discussion is about, people must display basic manners.. Theres no place for hostile people on wordpress

      • Rayya The Vet Says:

        Hey cowboy,

        I totally agree with you and appreciate the information you constantly share on my blog and the link you put up.

        Here is an interesting link that you might have already seen that supports your argument:
        http://badrap-blog.blogspot.com/p/vick-dog-info.html

        This video was posted by the number one pet blog in the world rated by technorati.

        Take care 🙂

      • Cowboy Says:

        Howdy Doc –

        Yep – I have seen that blog before and I had the link to at one time which was lost on another computer. Thanks for posting it! – I now have it again.
        Keep at it – all you can do as a Vet or as just a person who cares about animals is try to educate others. If the education fails, then it’s their loss.

        Cowboy

    • Erin Blackmore Says:

      I’m with Cowboy, the hostility generated in your response doesn’t seem at all necessary, Brenda.
      While Dr Rayya clearly expressed her standpoint on this issue, it is not without acknowledgment of the bigger picture and I believe she has outlined a clear understanding of WHY the legislation has been put in place but her debate is with the finer points of how it is being enforced. I’m not exactly sure why you’re so combative.

      Brenda, I would like to point out that while you’re correct with your statement about Labradors being the breed found most often to bite, this is based on statistics – Labradors are a very popular family pet, in fact the most commonly owned breed in Australia, so therefor it is going to be far more likely to be reported for bites as there are greater numbers of them. Much greater numbers than dogs like pit bulls, who are certainly not more commonly owned. The ratio is vastly different. Working in vet clinics for 7 years, I have seen very few pitties, but probably sight a lab once a day!
      I guess the bottom line is that all dogs can and will bite if put in a compromising situation, and those statistics are proof, right? Because aren’t Labradors generally seen as loveable goofballs?

      And as far as basing your opinion on an insurance agency goes, I mean, c’mon. Oh sure, because insurance companies clearly have better understanding of dog breeds and dog behavior than veterinarians…. Please.

      I personally believe that certain breeds of dogs definitely do carry certain traits. This is where it is the owner’s total and sole responsibility to be aware of and manage those traits. We seem to live in a society today where no one wants to take accountability for their actions – If you own a dog with an aggressive nature it is a reflection of how you have trained, socialised and reared that dog. The responsibility is all yours.
      Dogs need leadership in their human companions. I think a mistake people make is to project human emotions onto their canine friends and this really confuses dogs. It causes various behavioral problems and one of those can be aggression. And like Rayya stated, so many people are uneducated in even the most basic doggy body language.
      It is also my personal opinion that all too often people do no select the right breed of dog for their lifestyle or capabilities and tend to purchase a dog because they like the look of them. Not enough people are encouraged or have the insight to research a breed before they get one, and therefore wind up with a dog they can’t necessarily handle properly. All too often I have seen working dog breeds like border collies with terrible behavior issues (including aggression) because they are not existing in a lifestyle that reflects their highly strung needs. This is relevant to ALL breeds. If their breed-specific traits are not regarded properly by the owner, this leads to trouble in one way or another, and more importantly, it leads to a rather unhappy, confused canine. This brings me back to my point that a dog is purely the responsibility and reflection of it’s owner. Don’t take on what you can’t manage.

      Dr Rayya, I think your article is well balanced and aimed in the right direction, with many valid points. I especially agree with your point on making breeding a licensed practice and making that license hard to obtain. It’s probably the first critical step in the right direction.

      I think there is a long hard road ahead of us as workers in veterinary medicine to educate our clients on dog behavior and rearing well balanced pets so as they never reach the point where they become “problem” dogs. A long hard road, indeed. But we’ll keep pluggin’ away! 😉

      Reply

      • Rayya The Vet Says:

        Erin,

        Thanks for pouring out all your wisdom and reinforcing the importance of educating the public about basic dog behaviour.

        I really always welcome your great feedback and indepth replies.
        Keep them coming my way and together we will hopefully pave the way for happier and more well balanced pets! 🙂

  11. Mike Bailey Says:

    Great post Rayya!

    This is the first time I’ve come across your blog. There aren’t that many people blogging about animal issues in Victoria.

    Have you checked out my posts on the new laws? http://goodfordogs.org/blog/blog

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Hey Mike…glad you liked my article 🙂 … I totally agreen there are very few victorian bloggers about animals… I tweeted your awesome article studded crown of thorns… The kitty cat footage with the pitbull made me laugh so hard…

      Reply

  12. cliffhousealpacas Says:

    Great post. One of my best friends used to run a pit bull rescue; they are out-lawed in Denver, CO, as well. Her pooch, Lola, is a grinner, and when she and I take our pups out walking (my mini-pinscher/dachshund is waaaay more agreesive than Lola), we meet two kinds of people. Some can’t wait to pet her, and recognize her happy nature. Others cross the street to avoid us. I wish more people understood the things you wrote here.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Thanks for sharing your story….grinning pooches are the cutest and are often misunderstood…a few people can’t tell the difference between a canine grinner or growler…glad you enjoyed my post 🙂

      Reply

  13. Jen Says:

    I think a large problem not being discussed is the sort of people attracted to owning pitbulls or PB crosses. For every responsible owner of a PB there is someone who wants one because of their reputation and how they look. It is also these uneducated, irresponsible people that are producing PB derivitives via backyard breeding.
    I understand that the legislation has problems, but I think it’s aimed in the right direction.
    That is, giving rangers the power to remove and destroy PBs and crosses owned and bred by the people who shouldn’t be allowed near them, or any dog for that matter.

    Reply

    • Rayya The Vet Says:

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic…you are absolutely correct but unfortunately the law can be enforced incorrectly and lovely dogs may be put down as a result… The law should not be focused on pitbulls and more on uncontained vicious dogs…

      Reply

  14. AnonymousBurn Says:

    If you review the National Canine Research Council yearly reports of dog-bite related fatalities, you can see that while most dogs may have been *reported* as pit-bulls (as is the case for each year) upon investigation on 6% of were able to be identified reasonably by an expert advisor.

    http://nationalcanineresearchcouncil.com/uploaded_files/tinymce/2010%20DBRF%20Report%20FINAL_1.pdf

    Reply

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