Thursday, March 22, 2018

Ohio Attorney General warns of puppy scams; a growing problem in the state

(This is a press release just issued by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. It is being used in its entirety as the last blog. They are words to the wise in avoiding being scammed. - Jeffrey L. Frischkorn/

Ahead of National Puppy Day (March 23), Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is warning consumers to beware of online puppy scams, which cost victims about $1,000 on average according to dozens of complaints filed with the Attorney General’s Office. 

Some scam artists will try to sell you a puppy that doesn’t exist,” Attorney General DeWine said.

They’ll show you a picture and say they’ll deliver the puppy to you, but after you pay, you won’t get anything in return. We just warn people to be very careful if they’re trying to buy a puppy online.”

A typical puppy scam begins when a consumer finds a website offering a certain kind of dog, such as a Corgi, Shih Tzu, or teacup puppy. The website may include words like “adorable,” “precious,” or “cute” along with the name of the breed or the seller.

To buy a puppy, consumers are told to wire a few hundred dollars. After they pay once, they’re asked to send more money for shipping, insurance, or other costs. No puppy is ever delivered. 

In the past year, the Ohio Attorney General’s Office has received over 50 complaints about reported puppy scams. Consumers generally said the scams began with a specific puppy website, but some also reported finding ads on Facebook or another social media site.

Signs of a puppy scam include:
  • A seller who requests payment via wire transfer or money order.
  • Too-good-to-be-true prices, such as $500 for a puppy that normally would cost $1,000.
  • Pictures of the same puppy appearing on multiple websites.
  • Not being able to visit the puppy before the purchase.
  • A seller with a poor reputation or no reputation.
  • A seller who threatens to turn you in for animal neglect or abandonment if you refuse to send more money to the seller.

Tips to avoid the scam include:
  • Research breeders and sellers carefully. Check complaints filed with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and review feedback from other customers. Don’t rely solely on information provided by the seller. Keep in mind that some con artists may list an Ohio address and phone number, when they’re actually located in another country. Verify the seller’s information with an independent source. If possible, work with a local, reputable organization.
  • Never purchase a pet sight-unseen over the internet, especially from an individual who requests an “adoption fee” or “shipping fee” via money order or wire transfer. To help detect a possible scam, conduct an online image search of the puppy’s photo to see where else the picture is posted on the internet. (Search “how to search by image” for help determining how to do this.) If the same picture shows up in multiple places, it could be part of a scam.
  • Visit the puppy in person. If you choose to purchase a puppy, visit the breeder in person. Ask many questions. Ensure the breeder has individual veterinary paperwork for the puppy on the letterhead of his or her veterinarian, and consider calling the veterinarian to verify the relationship. Obtain proof of purchase with the breeder’s full contact information on it.

  • Consider adopting from a local animal shelter, where the entire family can meet and interact with an animal prior to adoption. 

  • Watch for red flags. Beware of offers that are too good to be true, sellers who require payment via wire transfer or money order, requests for extra costs for airline pet insurance or a temperature-controlled crate, unexpected delivery problems requiring additional payment, or threats that you’ll be turned in for animal abuse or neglect if you don’t pay.
  • Report potential problems. If you suspect a scam, contact the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. If you suspect animal cruelty, contact the seller’s local animal control agency or the humane society. The Humane Society of the United States has a puppy mill tip line at 1-877-MILL-TIP (1-877-645-5847).

Consumers can report scams to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office at or 800-282-0515.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Bass Pro/Cabela's indefinitely extend NICS 3-day default background check allowance

Bass Pro Shops appears to have quietly yielded to a request presented to it by 13 Democratic U.S. Senators regarding background checks on prospective firearms buyers.

The 13 senators are all largely regarded as being proponents of strict gun control laws with some of them promoting a ban on the sale of AR-platform rifles, rifle and handgun magazines with capacities greater than 10 rounds, and enhanced background checks.

Related to that last item, in 2015 the 13 senators sent a joint communique to Bass Pro Shops. These elected officials asked the outdoors retailer and Internet seller of firearms, ammunition and other outdoors wares to forego kicking in the federal government’s so-called “three-day default to proceed” background check provision.

This provision remains one of the few existing components of the Brady Violence Protection Act of 1993. It states that if the FBI does not complete its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) protocols within a three-day period that a federally licensed firearms dealer may proceed with the sale.

However, a FFL dealer is not required to do so and may if it so chooses wait until it gets what amounts to a go/no go notification from the FBI.

The default provision was established as a compromise to ensure that the federal government conducts background checks in an expeditious manner. This was done so that such entities would be prevented from essentially achieving a pocket veto of firearms sales.

The FBI states that 91 percent of its NICS calls are completed within one day, and says also on its web site that its West Virginia-based NICS Section has an average wait and processing time of “446.3 seconds.” Also, the agency’s web site says it has fielded more than 230 million checks based upon the federal firearms application to-buy form, having rejected more than 1.3 million applications.

Still, even with a largely quick application go/no-go turn-around, Bass Pro Shop says it will wait until NICS clearance is actually received. This information is based upon a check made via the retailer’s Internet electronic customer “chat services.” The Q&A service confirmed that the retailer will “hold the order for 45 days at the store” before returning the firearm to inventory should Bass Pro Shops fail to receive an okay from the FBI’s NICS program.

A Bass Pro Shops spokesman did not return telephone calls requesting further formal input.

Likewise, Cabela’s – which Bass Pro Shops agreed to purchase for $5.5 billion in 2016 – has a similar policy. A sales representative at Cabela’s Avon Lake store said the operation there will not release for sale any firearm until it also receives a NICS okay-to-proceed notification.

Few people would argue that NICS is flawed. That is why a bi-partisan legislative effort is underway to enhance the program. It is dubbed as the “Fix NICS Act of 2017” bill and is now before the U.S. Senate. This adjustment seeks better accountability in ensuring that all federal agencies report persons convicted of crimes which would legally prohibit them from buying or possessing a firearm.

This prohibition is called a “disability” and came to the forefront during a couple of recent instances whereby a federal agency failed to include into systems that NICS could access the names of people ineligible to buy a firearm.

In another related matter, the on-line “Business Insider” magazine - and other media venues - reported earlier this month that Bass Pro Shops was being lobbied via social media and by telephone to stop selling AR-platform rifle through its outlets and its Cabela’s affiliates.

These requests came after Dick’s Sporting Goods said it would no longer sell AR-platform rifles through its chain of Field & Stream outdoors-supply stores. This, following the murder of 17 high school students by a killer who allegedly used such a firearm.

However, a check of both Bass Pro Shops’ and Cabela’s web sites showed that each retailer still had AR-platform rifles for sale.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Coast Guard's Great Lakes operation saw huge spike in 2017 hoax distress calls

With the boating season fast approaching, the U.S. Coast Guard is reminding mariners that making a hoax distress call or indiscriminately shooting off flares are more than simply practical jokes gone bad, they are also expensive.

And not to be forgotten, illegal.

So much so that making a false hoax call to the Coast Guard can result in a fine of up to $10,000, a 10-year prison sentence, or both. Oh, and possibly being told by a federal judge to pony up reimbursement money to the Coast Guard which is required to respond to every call for help.

Those kinds of expenses can accumulate quickly, too, says the Coast Guard. A distress call search using an HC-130 Super Hercules fixed-wing aircraft costs approximately $15,000 per hour. And a MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter operates at approximately $10,000 per hour, the Coast Guard says.

As for a boat rescue search, that sort of activity tops out at approximately $5,000 per hour, says the Coast Guard as well.

And about 30-percent of the fake calls the Coast Guard receives are made by children who do not know the implications of their actions. the agency says as well. 

Thus making a hoax distress call is no laughing matter, says Petty Office Brian McCrum, spokesman for the Coast Guard’s Ninth District, headquartered in Cleveland.

The Ninth District covers all five of the Great Lakes and portions of eight states. Its 6,000 personnel – active duty, reserve forces and auxiliary volunteers – are responsible for 6,700 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, a length greater than the country’s entire Eastern Seaboard, are positioned in 80 stations and crew eight helicopters and 202 vessels, McCrum says.

The Coast Guard treats all emergency calls as if they were real until they can be proved otherwise,” McCrum said. “A hoax mayday case can sometimes last an average of three hours before it is called off.”

Thing is, McCrum acknowledges, hoax distress calls are time-consuming. They also do not just take away personnel they likewise drain the agency’s financial assets; funds that should be going to the “Coast Guard’s actual and main mission,” McCrum says.

McCrum says too that hoax calls can involve bringing in the assets of Canada’s Great Lakes’ Coast Guard contingency; consequently tapping into that nation’s bank account.

We really push the need to be vigilant during the summer months,” McCrum said.

McCrum said that last year by mid-June alone the Coast Guard’s Ninth District had fielded on the order of 160 total false distress calls, each one requiring a Coast Guard response.

That was up from the 55 false distress calls for the same period in 2015,” McCrum said. “Those kinds of calls are not only expensive and time-consuming, they can and do put our personnel at risk.”

Going hand-in-glove with hoax distress calls is the shooting off of flares; the type of visual signaling activity that alerts the Coast Guard directly or causes a citizen to call in a reported sighting that may not be a real distress situation.

In one case in 2017 in the Coast Guard’s Seventh District (comprising Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and Puerto Rico) responded to a false flare sighting that required the use of a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft and a small boat search crew. The total expense for this ultimately unnecessary response cost more than $43,000.

What should not be lost on would-be hoax distress call makers either is that technology has begun to catch up with the impostors, the Coast Guard says.

In addition to the capability to triangulate the location of most radio calls, the Coast Guard is developing new technology to identify hoaxers. The Coast Guard Research and Development Center’s newest tech can determine the unique vocal identity, like a fingerprint, of hoax callers, includes those wish to remain anonymously by using “silly voices,” the agency says.

The Coast Guard works closely with the Federal Communications Commission and law enforcement partners to track and pinpoint potential hoax calls,” McCrum said.

If a mariner hears a hoax distress call they are urged to contact the Coast Guard through its mobile app at Reporting hoax callers helps save time and resources and stop further hoax calls, McCrum says.

We don’t want people to be afraid of contacting us, and we recognize there is a difference between making a hoax distress call and a false alert, which would be something like a person mistaking a floating log for a body,” McCrum said.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, March 12, 2018

Outdoor recreation a huge cog in the nation's economic engine

Not only are outdoor activities that embrace fishing, hunting, Rving and other like pursuits important economic subjects for the United States, they also are expanding at rates that exceed the nation’s overall economic engine.

In a much-detailed report called the “Outdoor Recreation Satellite Account: Prototype Statistics for 2012-2016,” the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis says that the outdoor recreation economy accounted for 2-percent ($373.7 billion) of current-dollar so-called “Gross Domestic Product” for 2016.

Looked at slightly differently, the Commerce Department reports how the outdoor recreation economy grew 3.8 percent in 2016 (the latest year for which complete data is available). That figure is also one full point greater than did the nation’s overall economic growth rate of 2.8 percent.

The rates likewise saw a huge jump in 2015 at nearly six-percent before settling back in 2016 to levels more closely in line with those seen in 2013 and 2014.

Refined further, the Commerce Department’s exhaustive report says that outdoor recreation activities fall into three general categories. These subsets include what’s officially known as “conventional core activities” and which embrace such activities as bicycling, boating, hiking, and hunting.

Another subset of core activities including “agritourism”(a loosely applied term that implies recreational visitation to farms and ranches), and outdoor festivals, and supporting activities that enfold construction, trips and travel, and government.

In 2016, conventional recreation accounted for 36.7 percent of total outdoor recreation gross output, other recreation accounted for 22.1 percent, while supporting activities accounted for the remaining 41.2 percent, the Commerce Department says.

More directly to individual components, the Commerce Department says that motorized vehicle use was “the largest activity within conventional outdoor recreation in 2016.”

This outdoors market share accounted for $59.4 billion of gross output with recreational vehicles “accounting for more than half of this value at $30 billion,” the Commerce Department’s report states.

Boating and sport fishing were not slackers, either, in helping fuel the nation’s economic engine. These activities were worth $38.2 billion in 2016, representing an increase of 4-percent from the previous year.

And the combined hunting/shooting/trapping activities were valued at $15.4 billion in 2016, with hunting accounting for over 60 percent of this value, the Commerce Department said in its February 14th report.

As for the Commerce Department’s “multi-use apparel and accessories” component which include backpacks, bug spray, and other general-purpose gear and accessories that could not be allocated to specific activities, this segment grew 7.2 percent in 2016 and accounted for 35 percent of conventional outdoor recreation gross output, the report says.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross says the data collected, analyzed and subsequently made available to the public and – especially business – can help the latter in hiring, investing and growth.

The historical lack of detailed federal data regarding outdoor recreational activities has handicapped both the private and public sectors, Ross said as well.

The public will no doubt be surprised at the economic importance of this industry as we release prototype statistics measuring the impact of activities like boating, fishing, RVing, hunting, camping, hiking, and more,” Ross said. “This release is a milestone and helps us all gain new insights into this dynamic part of the U.S. economy.”

True enough says the Washington D.C.-based Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, a non-profit coalition of conservation and pro-sportsmen organizations.

It’s an extraordinary step forward to be able to quantify exactly how much America’s hunters, anglers, boaters, hikers, bikers, skiers, wildlife watchers, and other outdoor enthusiasts are contributing to a healthy economy and job market,” said Whit Fosburgh, the Partnership’s president and CEO.

Fosburgh said as well that the Commerce Department report does not even take into account recreational trips of less than 50 miles; about two-thirds of all outdoor recreation trips. Nor does the Commerce report take into account he sale of imported recreational goods, Fosburgh says.

Tally it all together and the nation’s outdoor recreation economy is worth $887 billion annually, Fosburgh also says.

When you consider that there are also many unquantifiable benefits of getting outside, including fostering healthy bodies and minds, you would think that growing this sector would be a top priority for our national decision makers,” Fosburgh said, noting the importance of the report in framing how the government addresses the topic of public lands, their use and any possible disposal.

- By Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Monday, March 5, 2018

On the personl rewards of checking off a bucket list item

DOVER, Delaware - Any bucket list is meaningless save for the one who matters the most: The person actually compiling the list.

It all comes down to what he (or she) would like to see accomplished before being placed in that lonesome valley. From big ticket items that are defined by wealth, time and health, to small and mundane things for which a person had not gotten around to doing for one reason or another.

In truth, a bucket list doesn’t have to make sense and in some measure, ought not to, either. They are the dreams found in one’s back-of-the-head diary.

Alas, I have several items on my bucket list that never will see themselves being checked off.

I had always wanted to cover as a reporter Alaska’s Iditarod Sled Dog Race. And I came oh, so, close a number of years back. But my doctor would have no part of it when he discovered my effort would require abandoning civilization for the outback and thus require extensive physical exertion of the kind that my all ready deteriorating spine would not tolerate.

Ditto with a withdrawn acceptance to fly aboard one of those aircraft that climbs high, fast and cocked vertically only to dive towards the earth just as fast and just as straight. For a few brief moments the effect mimics weightlessness. My doctor’s response was as expected as was my wife’s “Are you nuts?”

So I (very reluctantly) bowed out on doctors’ orders.

Even so, my bucket list does contain any number of “reasonable to acquire” items; and one of those I recently saw go from “to do” to “have done” ledgers. Oh, nothing major, but it was somewhat spontaneous, not all that expensive, with the bonus of being downright fun. Perfect bucket list criteria.

Up until a couple of weeks ago I had just one state left to have set my foot in – Delaware, of all places, the land of soft-shelled crab cakes, salt-water marshes, and Joe Biden. The remaining 49 states were colored in, including Mississippi, which felt my hiking boot’s impact last late spring.

I could not plan on doing a several-state tour to complete the bucket list, needing to head directly to Delaware. This mid-Atlantic state bills itself as the nation’s “First State,” a claim it can make since it was the initial one to ratify the Constitution.

Anyway, my wife, Bev, and I gathered up a AAA trip planner, loosely tossed some clothing into gym bags, kennel-upped our two dogs into the car and headed east for around 423 miles to Dover, Delaware. Don’t ask me why I selected Dover, either. I really was thinking “Wilmington” but Dover sort of popped out of my mouth.

The drive carried us through Pennsylvania’s southern tier of counties, across Maryland and around Baltimore and then up and over the 4.3-mile-long Chesapeake Bay Bridge. The bridge is billed as the world’s longest continuous over-water steel structure and which costs $4 to cross but only if you’re headed east. People heading west in the opposite direction pay nothing. I know, that doesn’t make any more sense than me trying to scratch off a silly bucket list item. Then again, Joe Biden as a presidential candidate doesn’t make much sense either.

Once across the Bay and back on dry land in Maryland’s Eastern Shore it was just a hop, skip and Triple-A trip planner drive to Delaware. And than another 45 minute or so drive to Dover, the state’s capital and home to one of the Air Force’s largest encampments.

Now that we were there and found a motel room for the night – not an easy proposition since all but one of the motels we visited said no to our two Labrador retrievers. As Bev would opine during our motel search “Dover is not dog friendly.” But I digress.

Perhaps, but what is dog friendly (as long as an animal is on a lead no longer than 10 feet) is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s 16,251-acre/25 square mile/eight-mile-long Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge’s front is edged by massive farm fields while its backside butts up against the Delaware Bay, a salty finger of the Atlantic Ocean.

And it was at Bombay that the bucket list became more than just my last state check-off item. Bombay NWR - Bev and I discovered in a bit of pre-trip research - includes a 12-mile motor vehicle drive. No four-lane highway, for sure, but the drive offers up tremendous wildlife viewing opportunities.

Ducks were plentiful and included the usual assortment one would expect of a migratory bird wintering ground. Pintails in large numbers as well as mallards, shovelers and even a pair of black ducks that were picking their way through a tidal mud flat. Then there were humongous flocks of snow geese and Canada geese and tundra swans.

No wonder that a goodly portion of the large farms we drove past had waterfowl-hunting blinds anchored to them. Oh, and an equal number of deer-hunting blinds. It appears that the Eastern Shore hunters take their big-game and waterfowl hunting seriously.

It would have proven foolish to race the course, even if the site had no posted 25 mile-per-hour speed limit. We’d stop here or pulled over there in order to unpack the binoculars or to leash the dogs for a quick walk to observation towers overlooking waterfowl-filled marshes. Once we even had a red fox come trotting up the road towards us, stopping directly opposite the car which enabled us to shoot a bunch of photographs.

After four hours of touring, stopping to ogle the assembled wildlife it was time to leave the Bombay NWR, the city of Dover and the state of Delaware behind. I had checked off a bucket list minutia. A fly speck of an interesting item in a lifetime of one’s existence, though important to me none-the-less.

And I would suppose there are people who would snort that a 1,100-mile round trip journey and a $400 or so wallet reduction was on the silly side just to fulfill a bucket list wish item.

These folks are correct in some respects, though in the end having the First State become my last to visit (as an approving niece would later say) meant that not only was a bucket list entry crossed off, it was memorably noted with the inclusion of a very large and very red circle.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn

Friday, March 2, 2018

Fewer concealed carry permits issued in Ohio last year but renewals were up

By a drop of nearly 41,000 permits, fewer Ohioans obtained their concealed carry licenses in 2017 than did Ohioans in 2016.

However, renewals of concealed carry license saw a healthy increase of more than 13,000 permits last year when compared to the number of renewals issued in 2016.

By Ohio law, the state Attorney General is required to report quarterly as well as annually to the Ohio General Assembly on the state’s concealed carry program. Among the report’s detailed components are such things as new licenses issued, renewals, license revocations, and licenses suspended, says Mike DeWine, the Ohio Attorney General.

Ohio began its legislatively approved concealed carry program in 2004. Since that first year the state’s 88 county sheriffs have issued 735,762 concealed carry permits, based on a tally of such licenses gleaned from the Ohio Attorney General’s required annual reports to the Ohio General Assembly.

The state works closely with these 88 county sheriff departments, who do the actual permit processing duties.

Broken down a little more, for 2017 the 88 county sheriffs issued 77,281 new CCW licenses, such permits being good for a five-year period. In 2016 that figure was 117,953 – the most ever - and which itself represented a large jump from the 71,589 new concealed carry licenses issued in 2015. Even so, that figure was a huge leap from the 58,066 new licenses issued in 2014.

Also, renewals last year totaled 54,064 licenses – the most also since 2008 when renewals first became due. By comparison, the 2016 license renewal figure was 40,986. In all and since 2008, the state’s 88 counties processed 317,976 renewals; again, based upon statistics derived from a search of the Ohio Attorney General’s annual reports to the Ohio General Assembly.

For license applications denied, the number fell appreciably: from 1,634 denials in 2016 to 1,216 denials last year. Likewise, the number of revocations dropped from 2016 to 2017: 697 to 437, respectively. Among the reasons for a revocation are a permit holder moving out of state, death or a person no longer wanting to hold a license.

As for suspensions, this is a class of license “hold” distinctions where the affected documents are put in abeyance for such things as the holder being arrested and charged for certain crimes. If the impacted person is found not guilty or the charges are dropped the concealed carry license is returned. For both 2016 and 2017, identical 1,669 licenses were suspended.

“Licenses to carry concealed handguns are an important part of the responsible exercise of our fundamental rights,” DeWine says.

“I am committed to the comprehensive training of law enforcement and the public regarding concealed carry laws, expansion of reciprocity agreements with other states whenever possible, and protection of the public.”

The top five counties for issuing new licenses include Franklin – 6,019; Lake – 5,789; Montgomery – 3,565; Hamilton – 3,075; and Butler – 2,929. Counties with the fewest new licenses issued in 2017 were: Noble – 85; Coshocton – 114; Meigs – 139; Monroe – 147; Paulding – 171.

Of Ohio’s 88 counties, 16 issued more renewals than they did process new concealed carry licenses. The five counties with the highest number of renewals were: Franklin – 3,564; Lake – 2,713; Clermont – 2,386; Montgomery – 2,238; Butler – 1,934. The five counties with the fewest number of renewals in 2017 were: Noble – 43; Meigs – 55; Monroe – 68; Paulding – 94; Coshocton – 102.

Not to be forgotten, Ohio has concealed carry reciprocity with 36 other states, including a convoluted agreement with Virginia. The Ohio Attorney General’s office suggests that Ohioans interested in carrying concealed in Virginia should visit or call the Virginia State Police for the latest information.

As for the requirements to obtain a concealed carry licese, DeWine notes that Ohio law has established minimum educational requirements that are a component of the various forms of competency certification. The total time required for training is eight hours with a minimum of two hours of in-person training that consists of range time and live-fire training.

The training and written exam may be completed online or as a combination of in-person and online training. The online portion of the training still must include a component that regularly engages the person, DeWine says.

- Jeffrey L. Frischkorn