Backcasts archive: Through Sept. 7, 2007

Blog calendar: a href="#sept7">Sept. 7 | Sept. 5 | Sept. 4

posted Sept. 7, 2007

Woman's best friend (her dog) registered to vote; owner avoids jail time

We first learned of the Federal Way, Wash., dog that could vote in July, after the owner of the Australian shepherd-terrier mix said she used an alias for her pooch on a voter registration form.

When busted after admitting the ruse to an election official, Jane K. Balogh faced up to 90 days in jail. She has since agreed to a deal that could remove the charge from her record, the Associated Press reports out of Seattle.

Balogh, 66, won't be prosecuted on the charge of making a false or misleading statement to a public servant if she does 10 hours of community service, pays a $250 fine and avoids violating the law for the next year, District Judge Mariane Spearman said Wednesday.

She pleaded not guilty to the charge in June.

Balogh claims to have registered her pet, giving it the handle Duncan M. McDonald, to protest a change in the law that she said made it too easy for non-citizens to cast ballots.

A sheriff's investigator wrote that Balogh admitted registering the dog under false pretenses "to make a point that anyone could vote, even an animal."

Duncan had been registered with the King County elections department for more than a year.

Here's the backstory: Balogh put her phone bill in the dog's name, then used that as identification when she mailed in the registration form in April 2006. In November, she wrote "VOID" across the dog's ballot and returned it with an image of a paw print on the signature line as Duncan's mark.

An election official then called and Balogh admitted what she had done, but the dog still was sent absentee ballots for school bond elections in February and May.

Nice work. She certainly proved her point that non-citizens can readily get around the law and vote.

Duncan M. McDonald was removed from the voter rolls in July. County election procedures were being reviewed to provide speedier action against voting fraud, county elections office spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said then, according to the AP.

Hey, we ask again, if you were a voting canine, what measures would you check on the ballots?

" Free kibbles on Mondays
" Designated bark-always hours
" Walking the master on Fridays
" Cats sleep outside once a month
" "Dog-eat-dog" to be stricken from all usage
" The hottest part of summer to be renamed man days
" Restaurant leftovers must be carried out in people bags
" Fireworks ban


posted Sept. 5, 2007

Lesser-known animal weasels its way into the species success stories

It's always a pleasure to hear about wildlife comebacks.

When they come around, those that pack the biggest punch often involve animals at the top of the food chain – grizzlies, wolves and mountain lions.

But here's one you may have missed that revolves around a weasel-like animal and the smallest state in the Union. And we're about to give this resurgence the props it deserves.

Indeed, fishers, dubbed by many as "fisher cats," had been absent from Rhode Island for 200 years, The Providence Journal recently reported.

But two dog attacks this summer in West Greenwich, R.I., confirm what state wildlife biologists have been noticing for the past few years: That fishers are back and thriving.

It's a good thing, experts told the Journal.

"Here's a species that's a success story, in the way it was expatriated from the state for a couple of centuries," said Charlie Brown, a wildlife biologist, "and basically on its own accord, it's come back to Rhode Island."

Though many locals call them fisher cats, the animals are neither prolific fish-eaters nor part of the cat family. They are Mustelids, which also include weasels, ferrets and wolverines. It is said they got the fisher cat label from the French word fitchet, used to describe a European polecat, another Mustelid.

The fisher was forced out of The Ocean State and into northern New England when forests were eliminated in favor of farmland and towns, according to Brown. It began reappearing as forests slowly replaced abandoned farmland.

The biologist said he has no idea how many fishers live in the state, but since they have few, if any, natural predators, they are here to stay.

That isn't necessarily good news for dog owners, whose pets have been chased by the rascally critters.

With their quickness, agility and sharp claws and fanglike teeth, the normally solitary animals usually prey on small mammals, such as squirrels, mice and porcupines, according to the Journal.

Biologists say that people with fishers in their neighborhoods have no reason to fear a human attack. As for pets, Brown urges people to use common sense.

"If you're going to keep your cats out, leave them out at night, it might be reasonable to expect some problems," he said.

It's all part of the yin and yang of wildlife revivals: With the good comes the bad. But I'd much rather have the fisher back in the woods where it belongs, even if it means being more diligent with pets.


posted Sept. 4, 2007

Court close for Kentucky corn cannon case?

It's gotten to the point where a guy can't even fire his cannon without someone complaining.

Produce farmer Dennis Polley is merely protecting his livelihood when he blasts his propane cannon to scare away birds from his sweet corn, the Associated Press reports out of Nicholasville, Ky.

Polley acknowledged the device is loud – sometimes up to 120 decibels loud – but "it's got to be loud to work," he said. "To get the birds' attention, it's got to shock them a little bit."

Apparently the propane blasts are a little too shocking for some of Polley's neighbors, who are suing the farmer, claiming his cannon is disruptively loud.

Phil Palmgreen, whose property is roughly 500 yards away from Polley's, said he could feel the impact of the blasts in his chest.

"It's been so bad all summer we've never even had a cookout on our deck because it was going to go off every couple of minutes," Palmgreen said.

Polley and his wife, Debby, are fighting the lawsuit.

To lose "would start a chain reaction for every farmer in Jessamine County,'' Debby Polley said. "Because what's going to be next? Will they not want you to start your tractors until 10 o'clock in the morning?"

And no one should take the "early to rise" part out of the farmer's daily mantra, right?

Indeed, Jessamine County's noise-control ordinance exempts from penalties a "noise disturbance created by farm livestock, the operation of farm machinery or noise created by other activities relating to an agricultural operation," according to the AP.

Steve Ayres, another plaintiff in the recent lawsuit, said the group doesn't believe the noise a cannon makes is a normal agricultural sound.

We wonder how the plaintiffs feel about beak marks in their corn on the cob?

Is exempting mounted police and K-9 cops from pooper scooper laws mad?

We wouldn't expect anything less from a city nicknamed Madtown, so why not exempt Madison, Wis., cops on mounted patrol and K-9 unit duty from the city's pooper scooper law?

As the Associated Press reports, a new statute here may allow police officers to, er, start leaving the evidence behind.

An ordinance amendment to have been taken up today is aimed at making it easier for the city to increase its use of mounted police patrols.

Alderwomen Judy Compton and Lauren Cnare, co-sponsors of the amendment, said the change is meant to allow officers in the saddle or partnered with canines to patrol events such as University of Wisconsin football games without having to stop to pick up droppings like civilian pet owners.

Never mind that not doing so risks enraging the PC crowd. Well, that's our take, anyhow. Imagine inciting a riot due to poo.

But little will change even with the proposed amendment, according to Lt. Victor Wohl, who oversees the police department's five-dog canine unit.

"The K-9 handlers are in most instances going to pick up after their dogs," Wohl said.

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    About the author: Brett Pauly spent nearly six years editing and publishing ESPNOutdoors.com before moving on to produce the ESPN.com Sports Travel site.

    He is a national award-winning writer and editor with 14 years of experience in the newspaper trade. The Evergreen State of Washington is where he makes his home. Click here to email him.

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