CONNERSVILLE, Ind. – An Indiana police officer and his wife who nursed an injured baby deer back to health plan to fight state charges stemming from their rescue efforts.
Jeff Counceller, a police officer in the eastern Indiana city of Connersville, found the deer in 2010 curled up on a front porch with maggot-infested puncture wounds. He and his wife, Jennifer, kept the deer in an enclosure on their 17-acre farm and named her Dani, The Indianapolis Star reports.
Indiana's Department of Natural Resources told the Councellers to return the ailing deer to the wild, but they took it home and nursed it back to health. The couple were charged earlier this month with illegal possession of a white-tailed deer, a misdemeanor that carries up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
Jeff Counceller said returning it to the wild at the time "would have been a death sentence." The family told the Star they intended to return the deer to the wild once it was strong enough to survive on its own.
The Councellers tried to find a home for the deer at animal rescue operations, petting zoos and deer farms, but no one would take her. They say they didn't know it was illegal to keep the deer.
The deer vanished last summer on the day when the DNR planned to euthanize the animal after the couple's request for a rescue permit was denied.
Although lawyer's fees would be more expensive than laying the fine for the offense, the Councellers said they plan to fight the charge.
"Sometimes, it's not always about the DNR laws," Jennifer Counceller told the Star. "Sometimes it's about common sense and what's right in God's eyes. And that's what I'm going to stand for."
A Facebook page, “called Drop Charges Against Connersville Police Officer,” has been set up on behalf of the Councellers. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had more than 13,000 “Likes” from people around the word.
“Let's charge the DNR with stupidity and inhumanity. Seriously, they have nothing better to do??” one user, Marie Quaglia, wrote in a post.
“This is why people have given up on doing what’s right in this world,” wrote another follower of the Facebook page.
An online petition has also been established for the couple – with more than 11,000 supporters.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.