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Residential Chicken Keeping

Myths, Facts and Support

Genora Crain-Orth, Hens in Jax, hensinjax@gmail.com

Table of Contents
Introduction..................................................................................................................................................................... 3 Community Support ......................................................................................................................................................... 3 Code Enforcement and Animal Care and Protective Services ............................................................................................ 3 Odor ................................................................................................................................................................................ 4 Noise ............................................................................................................................................................................... 5 Ordinance ........................................................................................................................................................................ 6 Impact on Animal Shelters ............................................................................................................................................... 6 Property Values ............................................................................................................................................................... 6 Public Health.................................................................................................................................................................... 7 Pests and Rodents............................................................................................................................................................ 9 Sustainability ..................................................................................................................................................................10 Food Safety and Animal Welfare .....................................................................................................................................10 Educational Opportunities ..............................................................................................................................................11 Backyard Chicken Keeping is a fad ...................................................................................................................................11 Conclusion ......................................................................................................................................................................12 Appendix A .....................................................................................................................................................................13 Appendix B .....................................................................................................................................................................16 Appendix C .....................................................................................................................................................................25 Appendix D .....................................................................................................................................................................30 Appendix E......................................................................................................................................................................34 Appendix F ......................................................................................................................................................................35 Appendix G .....................................................................................................................................................................36 Appendix H .....................................................................................................................................................................37 Appendix I.......................................................................................................................................................................39 Appendix J ......................................................................................................................................................................41 Appendix K......................................................................................................................................................................42

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Introduction
In recent years, people have become more concerned about the economy, the environment, food safety, emergency preparedness, and animal welfare and are returning to some of the basic self-sufficiency practices of previous generations – vegetable gardening, canning food, and raising chickens. In response to significant public support, numerous municipalities throughout Florida and the United States have adopted ordinances allowing urban residents to keep a limited number of egg-laying hens. For example, chickens are allowed in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Charlotte, Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, Mobile, Orlando, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Sarasota and St Petersburg. In fact, according to a 2009 Newsweek Magazine article, more than 65% of major U.S. cities now have chicken-keeping ordinances (Appendix A). That number has only continued to grow since this article was published. In Florida, many communities, municipalities and cities already allow backyard hens. Some, like Gainesville, are even working to increase the number of hens currently allowed. Here’s an example of a few found based on a quick search of www.municode.com: Arcadia, Belleair, Bonita Springs, Dunedin, Gainesville, Green Cove Springs, Gulfport, Key West, Lakeland, Largo, Miami, Mt. Dora, Orlando, Panama City, Pinellas Park, Sarasota, Sebring, South Miami, St Augustine, St Petersburg, Tallahassee, and Winter Garden We, the citizens of Jacksonville, would like this same right.

Community Support
The city of Jacksonville overwhelmingly supports the chicken ordinance, as evidenced by the following: 1. A petition with over 3200 signatures from Jacksonville residents over the age of 18 who support our proposal. 2. An inspection of the public record revealed the vast majority of correspondence received by the City on this issue was in favor of the ordinance. 3. Letters in support of urban chicken keeping have been received from groups as diverse as community gardens & native plant societies, several historic neighborhoods, food advocates, obesity prevention coalition, realtors, and inner city after school programs are included in Appendix B. 4. As a follow up to a 2012 Urban Agriculture Community Forum, Riverside Avondale Preservation sent an online survey to its members to gauge their support of allowing backyard hens. 91.2% of respondents indicated they were supportive of allowing backyard hens. Many included comments covered by the language in the substituted ordinance. This survey is contained in Appendix C.

Code Enforcement and Animal Care and Protective Services
We have gathered letters from public officials in various chicken-friendly cities in Florida, all of whom state that allowing residents to keep a limited number of female chickens has benefitted their cities, and, more importantly, has had “no adverse effects from people not fully accepting the responsibility of chicken ownership”.
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Written testimony from city commissioners and planners are included in Appendix D of this packet. These statements provide an indication that chicken ordinances do not create the type of problems some fear. Allowing residents a small number of egglaying hens has not created a financial burden for these cities; spurred fighting among neighbors; presented a noise, odor, or rodent problem; reduced property values; or posed a public health threat. In fact, public officials in cities where backyard chickens have been permitted typically view it as a beneficial activity that builds community and self-reliance. The positive experiences reported by these Florida cities and numerous others across the country indicate that Jacksonville could also enact a well-crafted hen ordinance with similar success. Jacksonville is a city and county where zoning categories often times abut. In fact, many of the calls that Animal Control and Protective Services (AC&PS) responds to today are in areas of Jacksonville where one side of the road is zoned RR or AGR, and the other is zoned residential. If the chicken literally crosses the road, AC&PS is called. The wording of the current ordinance states that in AGR and RR districts, “…a shelter shall be provided for any poultry, which shall be located not less than 50 feet from any property line”. Ordinance 2013-415, which would allow up to 5 chickens in non AGR and RR zoned areas in single family dwellings, stipulates that “Chickens shall be kept within a coop or enclosure at all times”. Ordinance 2013-415 is clearly written and pragmatic, permitting a limited number of backyard hens, specifically outlawing roosters, containing performance standards around smell, noise, predators, and chickens running at large and unwanted chickens. In addition, the draft legislation would require prospective hen owners attend a chicken keeping class provided by the Duval County Agricultural Extension (see Appendix E for the curriculum covered). These seminars have been attended by 419 people based on Duval County Agricultural Extension , but the number that attended was actually higher since not everyone signed in. We believe that these practical safeguards and requirements will result in less confusion and fewer complaints, helping to minimize the financial burden and risk to the city and ensuring the likelihood of success. Additionally, there is a volunteer group forming that is willing to respond to at large chickens in residential areas to further mitigate this concern. Groups like this have more flexibility with schedules, allowing them to catch chickens when they are more subdued – in the evening when they roost for the night – versus the ineffective method of chasing chickens with nets. Finally, all five local feed stores - Westside Feed (904-771-5070), Standard Feed (904-355-5575), Dinsmore Feed (904-765-3369), North Florida Feed (904-783-4327) and Northside Feed (904-757-4685) have a standard policy – “ If a hen turns out to be a rooster policy is to give a full refund, replace with a hen or put the rooster up for sale. Also, will accept any poultry at anytime to re-locate as needed. This includes doing this for Jacksonville Animal Control.” (Appendix F) Odor The fear of odor problems caused by backyard chickens is unwarranted. Chickens themselves do not smell. It’s only their manure that has the potential to smell if not properly managed, which is also true of feces from dogs, cats, or any other animal. But unlike dogs and cats, which may defecate on the lawns of neighbors or in public places, chicken waste would be confined to the coop and run in the backyard of the owner. The ordinance clearly stipulates that hens must be enclosed at all times.
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In addition, the maximum number of chickens allowed is just five. “A fully grown four-pound laying hen produces approximately a quarter-pound of manure per day” (http://ohioline.osu.edu/b604/). In comparison, an average dog produces three quarters of a pound per day, or three times as much waste as one hen (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/1065657X.2007.10702339#preview ) and you don’t get the benefit of eggs. You cannot compost dog or cat manure as it contains harmful bacteria and parasites (hookworms, roundworms and tapeworms) that can infect humans. The reason people are often fearful of a potential odor problem is because their experience with chickens (if they have any at all), is with a farm or commercial poultry operation. In these situations, chickens are viewed as a commodity and are raised with the intention of profit from meat or egg production. Under those circumstances, hundreds, if not thousands, of chickens are often kept in crowded conditions with poor ventilation and without regular cleaning, resulting in a strong odor. On the contrary, people who want to raise 5 hens in the city are not looking to make a profit. They want eggs produced by healthy chickens raised in sanitary, clean, and safe conditions. As a result, five small birds housed in an owner’s backyard, are extremely unlikely to create an odor problem for neighbors. Ordinance The maximum number of chickens allowed per single family residential lot is no more than 5 chickens. Coops must be located in the rear yard of the property (with exceptions on navigable waterways), must be kept clean, sanitary and free of standing water. Section 426.901 of the current animal control ordinance indicates that animals must be confined and forbids offensive odors. Noise Only roosters crow loudly, not hens. The main rule for keeping urban chickens is no roosters. Roosters are noisy. Hens are generally quiet animals, with the exception of announcing the arrival of a freshly laid egg. This sound is short-lived, lasting a few minutes and takes place once every 24 to 36 hours, and never occurs at night. The clucking of hens is commonly compared to human conversation and registers around 65 decibels (http://nasdonline.org/document/1744/d001721/protecting-againstnoise.html) Some hens are more vocal than others, depending on the breed, but there is no comparing the sound of a cackling hen to a barking dog (that can reach well over 100 decibels according to http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16649947) , power tools, lawn mowers, garbage trucks, motorcycles, wild crows, kids playing, car alarms, sirens, airplanes, trains, and the myriad of other loud noises frequently heard in neighborhoods in our community. Noise is not a concern with allowing 5 female chickens in residential backyards.
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Ordinance No male chickens/roosters, ducks, geese, turkeys, peafowl, pheasants, quail or any other poultry or fowl may be kept under this subsection of the Zoning Code. Existing noise ordinances protect neighbors. Impact on Animal Shelters We have taken steps to ensure that local animal shelters are not inundated with unwanted hens and mis-sexed roosters, as some have claimed. There is a monetary value associated with any chicken, hen or rooster. Hens are always wanted because they provide eggs, fertilizer, and are gentle creatures that make great pets. If a family can't keep them for any reason, they are easily relocated through all five local feed stores who have a standing policy to relocate any unwanted hens or roosters (Appendix F). The same policy applies to improperly sexed roosters. The Duval County Urban Agriculture Extension’s Chicken Keeping seminar can also educate potential hen owners on purchasing hens of egg laying age or sex linked chicks to avoid potential roosters or what do with non sex linked chicks that turn out to be roosters. See Appendix E for the curriculum these seminars cover and statistics on attendance the past few years. There will be no impact on local animal shelters as a result of approving this ordinance. Ordinance Specific language in the ordinance prohibits chickens from trespassing on neighboring properties and from being released or set free. Residential chickens must be kept within a coop and enclosure at all times. Further, chickens no longer wanted by their owners cannot be taken to Animal Care & Protective Services or released. They must be taken to an approved location, such as Standard Feed (one of the five local feed stores), that have agreed to accept and place any and all unwanted chickens. Property Values Declining property values is another myth associated with chicken-keeping in the city. Again, this is an unsubstantiated claim based on fear and misconceptions, not facts. City coops are typically small, clean, well-constructed and attractive, because hen owners often live in close proximity to the structures and take great care to tend to the welfare of their animals. In fact, urban chicken keepers are so proud of their coops, they hold annual coop tours to show them off! Hens in Jax sponsored a virtual Coop d’Ville (many submitted are featured throughout this document) and had forty entries. No evidence or data exists to indicate that keeping a limited number of urban hens, as laid out in our proposal, would have any negative impact on real estate values whatsoever. In actuality, the right to raise hens may be more likely to be viewed as a benefit and positive economic feature of a community. Redfin, a real estate brokerage, has named "the top five chicken cities" based on homes recently listed in MLS that mention coops as a feature (http://blog.redfin.com/blog/2013/07/the-top-five-cities-to-be-a-chicken.html). These cities are
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not Camden, New Jersey or Detroit, Michigan, but places people want to move to and live – Portland, Ventura, San Diego, Sacramento and Seattle. Not only does Redfin identify chicken-friendly cities, they also post listings for properties that feature coops. At the beginning of November 2013, there were 54 properties FEATURING chicken coops (with photos) http://www.redfin.com/collections/christin-c-u1708129/chickens-rule-c9947 A list of the 2013 Top Healthiest Housing Markets according to Forbes http://www.forbes.com/sites/trulia/2012/12/17/2013s-top-10-healthiest-housing-markets/ - is telling… nine of the ten allow backyard hens: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. Houston, TX *San Francisco, CA *Bethesda-Rockville-Frederick, MD *San Antonio, TX *Austin, TX 6. *Seattle, WA 7. *Omaha, NE-IA 8. *Peabody, MA 9. *Fort Worth, TX 10. *Louisville, KY-IN

Urban chicken keepers, like all good pet owners, are concerned about how their chickens might be affecting their neighborhood. They want their chickens to be a positive experience for everyone, and they often make an effort to maintain an open dialogue with their immediate neighbors to ensure any concerns or issues are addressed. Actually, chickens can be kept (and in many cases, are already being kept) in a yard so inconspicuously that it may not be apparent that chickens are even around. We’ve even received letters from individuals that currently have neighbors with chickens or would be fine if their neighbors got chickens (see Appendix H). There are studies that have found that urban agriculture can increase social connections and civic engagement in the community. Keeping chickens dovetails nicely into the community building aspect of urban agriculture. In the spring and summer, chickens often lay more eggs than their owners can use. Neighbors typically become the beneficiaries of these extra eggs. Many chicken owners are also eager to educate their neighbors and communities on the benefits of backyard chickens by inviting them over for a visit so they can see the coop and interact with the chickens (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0883292702000835) In Appendix I you will find a letter from local realtors in support of allowing backyard hens. It’s simply not true that urban chicken keeping has a negative impact on property values. Ordinance Coops must be located in the rear of the yard (with exceptions on navigable waterways), screened from neighbor’s view, provided a minimum of three sq feet per chicken and may not be taller than six feet. Coops that exceed 100 sq feet must obtain a building permit. Public Health The notion that five birds confined to an enclosure in a backyard will somehow create a public health threat is also unwarranted. If it were true, others cities wouldn’t permit it.
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From time to time, we hear about a potentially deadly pathogen capable of jumping from one species to another. Bird flu and swine flu are two of the most recent examples. Fortunately, neither of these perceived threats has materialized. The type of Avian Influenza that is contagious to humans has not been found in North America. Bird flu is spread by contact with the contaminated feces of wild birds, primarily migratory waterfowl. Unlike rural farm birds, which might co-mingle with migratory birds or drink from a shared pond, backyard chickens will be kept in an enclosed pen where contact with migratory birds is highly unlikely. Bradley Burbaugh, former Duval County Agricultural Extension Agent, states "Bird flu of the type noted in the media has not been diagnosed in the whole of the Western Hemisphere and may not ever find its way here”. Typical hygiene methods of hand washing and isolation of the flock are very effective in reducing these concerns. Mr. Burbaugh’s professional recommendation is that backyard flocks be kept in a pen or enclosure to improve biosecurity (Appendix G). According to the Florida Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control and Health Protection, small flocks of six chickens are used all over Florida as “sentinels” to track St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV), West Nile virus (WNV), Eastern equine encephalitis virus (EEEV), all of which are transmitted by mosquitoes. Importantly, “chickens are not known to transmit mosquito-borne viruses directly to people. They are also not effective virus amplifying hosts. Mosquitoes that bite an infected chicken are unlikely to become infected.” This means a chicken infected with one of these diseases cannot transmit the disease to other mosquitoes that will bite and spread the disease further. (Surveillance and Control of Selected Mosquito-borne Diseases in Florida 2013 Handbook, page 41, 42 - http://www.floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/mosquitoborne-diseases/_documents/mosquitoguide2013.pdf) Further, Sheri Hutchinson, Interim Press Secretary for the Florida Department of Health states “The Florida Department of Health is not aware of any public health implications regarding backyard chickens” (Appendix J). Salmonella is another health concern that is frequently mentioned in association with backyard hens. Since 1991, only 45 Salmonella outbreaks have been linked to live baby poultry. Again, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends simple and common sense advice for minimizing potential health risks: “wash hands thoroughly with soap and water right after touching live poultry or anything in the area where they live and roam. Use hand sanitizer if soap and water are not readily available” and “clean any equipment or materials associated with raising or caring for live poultry outside the house…” (www.cdc.gov/Features/SalmonellaPoultry/) These same recommendations for Salmonella from the CDC are provided for reptiles (turtles, snakes, and lizards), amphibians (frogs and toads), pocket pets (guinea pigs and rodents like hamsters), dogs, cats, birds (including pet and wild birds), horses, and farm animals (goats, calves, sheep) rodents, rabbits and reptiles (http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/diseases/salmonellosis.htm).

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There are actually more diseases that can be spread from dogs and cats than from chickens. Dogs and cats can spread bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites to humans. Cat Scratch fever is a bacterial infection cats can spread to people. Ringworm, a highly contagious fungal infection, can be transmitted to humans by touching an infected animal’s fur or skin and is common in free roaming cats. Rabies is an example of a viral infection spread to humans from saliva or a dog bite. Roundworm, hookworm, tapeworm, and Giardia are all intestinal parasites that can be passed to humans from pet waste. Tick-borne diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can be brought home by dogs and cats. (http://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/browse_by_animal.htm) Chickens can actually help keep your backyard healthier because they eat ticks and other insects. Keep in mind, too, that bird diseases like Exotic Newcastle, West Nile, or avian influenza can also infect different types of birds, not just chickens, including common pet birds like parrots, finches, and cockatiels. Regardless of this, people will continue to love and care for all kinds of pets because they enrich our lives, provide companionship, teach responsibility, entertain us, and in the case of chickens, provide eggs! In the event that an owner does find a need to take their chicken to the vet, there are several veterinarians in Jacksonville that will treat chickens (Appendix K). The bottom line is, allowing residents to keep 5 chickens in the backyard will not cause any public health concerns. Ordinance Chickens must be kept within a coop or enclosure at all times. Residents wishing to acquire chickens in residential areas must complete a chicken keeping seminar from the Duval County Agricultural Extension. Pests and Rodents Chickens do not attract insects, they eat them! They love to eat all types of bugs, including those that can carry human diseases like mosquitoes and ticks. They also eat slugs that would otherwise harm garden crops. Rather than attract flies, they eat fly larvae (maggots) before they can grow up to become adult flies. In his letter, Brad Burbaugh, former Duval County Agricultural Extension agent, supports our claim that if chickens have access to fly larvae, flies will never become a problem. He also states that chickens do not attract rodents and that a small number of hens can be a great addition to any urban family backyard (Appendix G). A chicken run is not likely to attract rodents or wildlife unless chicken feed is spilled or not stored properly. This same thing holds true for dog or cat food, garbage, bird seed, fruit trees, koi ponds, and compost bins. To many of us, chickens are a natural extension to our gardens. They are world-class recyclers. Within 24 hours, they turn garden scraps, bugs, and weeds into one of two things we can use, eggs and fertilizer.
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Ordinance
The coop and enclosure shall be completely secured from predators, including openings, ventilation holes, doors and gates (fencing or roofing is required over the enclosure in addition to the coop). All stored feed shall be kept in a rodent and predator proof containers.

Sustainability More and more people are interested in living a more sustainable lifestyle, by eating local, adopting environmentally-friendly practices, and reducing their carbon footprint. A small number of egg laying hens will allow us the opportunity to do just that. People who have backyard hens are less likely to use harmful chemicals and pesticides in their gardens. Instead, chicken owners usually desire their yards to be healthy and environmentally-friendly. Many consider their chickens to be an extension of their gardens, since they eat weeds and bugs and provide a source of fertilizer. Organic gardeners seek natural fertilizer to enhance their garden soil as they grow fresh fruits and vegetables. Chicken manure is one of the most efficient natural fertilizers providing essential nutrients to build the soil. Backyard hens provide an excellent, local source of fertilizer that is easily composted, without the carbon and environmental impacts from manufacturing and long-distance transportation. Backyard chickens also eat grass clippings and food scraps, thus keeping these waste products out of the local landfill by reusing them on site. Food Safety and Animal Welfare There is a growing desire among consumers to regain some control over the food we serve our families. Food recalls have become common and people are becoming more and more concerned about the safety of their food, how and where it was grown or raised, and the welfare of the animals that provided it. Not only are home-grown eggs fresher, tastier, and more nutritious than store-bought eggs, they are also less likely to contain Salmonella. Store-bought eggs are often shipped from out-of-state, and can be legally sold when they are as old as 45 days. Studies show home grown eggs are also more nutritious (http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/tests-revealhealthier-eggs.aspx#axzz2jS8Wz41E).

Chickens raised as pets, rather than for profit, are often less crowded, less stressed, treated better and therefore less susceptible to disease. Given concerns over food recalls, food safety and how and where food is processed, it’s no surprise people are gaining interest in producing food for themselves and their families.

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Commercial chickens raised in battery cages

Urban chickens in backyard coops

Educational Opportunities Raising five hens in the backyard is a tremendous opportunity for parents to teach young children about the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet, and about where the food they eat really comes from. This is something a dog or cat cannot do. And because of their small size and friendly demeanor, hens can be easily handled by young children without the fear of being bitten. By keeping a few hens, children will also learn about sustainability and recycling because they will see firsthand how grass clippings, bugs, weeds, and kitchen scraps fed to chickens are turned into delicious eggs. They will also see how straw bedding and waste from the chickens improves garden soil that, in turn, can produce fruits and vegetables. Instead of just hearing the phrase “reduce, reuse, recycle" they will actually experience it. Backyard Chicken Keeping is a fad Chickens have been domesticated since 10,000 BC and have played an important role in our lives ever since. Many of our grandparents had victory gardens and knew how to grow vegetables, can food and raise their own chickens. This valuable knowledge and sense of self-sufficiency seem to have skipped a few generations, and we’re anxious to bring it back on a smaller scale. We want the opportunity to be more self-reliant and to teach our children these basic skills and life lessons that can come from chicken ownership. Raising five backyard hens also provides a tremendous opportunity for parents and grandparents to teach children about the responsibility that comes with caring for a pet. Backyard chicken keeping is not something that is usually done on a whim. Hen owners are generally well-informed about what is involved and fully committed to the effort, since it can require extensive planning and preparation. You can’t just go to the pet store and get chickens like you can a dog, cat or any other pet. It takes time to build a coop, acquire all the necessary feeding and watering supplies, and learn about the needs of chickens and caretaking practices prior to actually purchasing the chicks.

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Conclusion “Chickens suffer from a PR problem. People thing they are dirty, noisy and smelly. The truth, a few cared for hens are cleaner and quieter than one big dog or the three neighborhood cats that poop in the flower beds. Plus you get eggs…” – The Wall Street Journal The desire to keep backyard chickens is not unique to Jacksonville. It’s part of a movement that’s spread across our country in recent years as citizens return to basic self sufficiency practices and produce food for themselves. In fact, most cities are expanding this right, relaxing ordinances enacted in the 50’s and 60’s that forbid chickens in urban backyards. The proposed ordinance is responsible but not prohibitive, it provides a common sense framework that protects our neighbors from potential nuisance but allows freedom and minimizes government interference. Chickens as pets can enrich our gardens, teach responsibility, entertain us and provide fresh eggs. Can we not feel confident that our city, like hundreds of other cosmopolitan, forward thinking cities, could happily keep backyard hens? Relying on the facts and statistics provided within, this is not a big risk for our city but an opportunity to make a positive change. There is no fear or concern about keeping backyard hens that is substantiated.

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Appendix A

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Appendix B

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Appendix C – Urban Ag Survey sent online to RAP members

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Appendix D

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Appendix E

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Appendix F

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Appendix G

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Appendix H

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Appendix I

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Appendix J

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Appendix K

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