Connersville, IN – A central Indiana couple is facing criminal charges (which may include jail time) for trying to save an injured deer.
WTHR reports that Jeff Counceller, a Connersville police officer, and his wife, Jennifer, may get up to 60 days behind bars after Jeff rescued an injured deer two years ago when he found it on a porch during a police call. He and his wife, a nurse, took care of the little deer, which they nicknamed “Dani.” The couple says that Dani changed their lives.
“I was gonna put her back in the woods, but I seen the injuries and I knew they were life threatening so I called Jennifer,” recalled Jeff.
After realizing that taking care of Dani would be a long-term commitment, they called habitats all over the state of Indiana to see if anyone could take the deer. Everyone replied that they were full, so the Counceller’s decided to build Dani a pen in their own backyard.
“She would run around. She would play. We would feed her crack cord and deer chow and other things. Again, we knew someday that we needed to turn her loose,” explained Jeff.
“It was never a secret that we had the deer. Everybody knew we had the deer. We never kept it a secret. We talked about it openly,” said Jennifer.
After a confrontation with the Department of Natural Resources, they were told that Dani was too humanized and would need to be put down. After a series of back-and-forths with the DNR, a euthanasia date was set, but was interrupted when Dani’s pen was opened, and she escaped. The Counceller’s deny that they opened the gate, saying that it was perhaps a neighbor or friend who knew what would happen.
Now, the Counceller’s face criminal charges, but would like to see their case go before a jury.
“There was no criminal intent here. We didn’t go out and poach a deer. We didn’t kill a deer without a tag. We didn’t, you know, go out and steal her from the woods and plan on keeping her as a pet,” said Jennifer.
“She deserved a chance to live,” said Jeff about Dani.
This type of thing is not entirely unheard of. CBS Baltimore reported on a similar case in 2010, in which a group of Good Samaritans intervened to save a deer from drowning in icy water. They were written tickets with a $90 fine by the Natural Resources officer on the scene, who apparently watched the group save the deer, only to hand them tickets for unspecified reasons.
I guess the moral of the story is: Don’t help deer because the government doesn’t like it.