The Indiana Department of Natural Resources revealed Friday that it planned to ask that charges be dropped against a Connersville couple who nursed a deer back to health.
For supporters of Jennifer and Jeff Counceller, the news spells relief. For officials with the DNR, the case means an “educational opportunity” and an open discussion about the law at the center of the dispute.
The Connersville couple found a fawn that had been badly injured and nursed it back to health. They did so without getting a permit from the DNR. As a result, the agency filed a misdemeanor charge against the couple that carried a $500 fine and a sentence of up to six months.
John Waudby, who created a Facebook page supporting the couple that accumulated more than 38,000 likes, told Fox59 that the case sparked something in him.
“I was furious at the DNR and the prosecutor for even thinking of trying to file charges against a couple who tried to rescue a deer,” Waudby said.
“It’s sad, you know it really is, that it had to come down to something like this, and when was the last time that you heard a governor got involved in a misdemeanor case?”
Waudby, who doesn’t know the couple personally, said he created an “international media firestorm” that got people’s attention.
“We’ve gotten 30-plus thousand signatures on change.org. We’ve raised over $2,000 for the couple for their legal defenses, so we hit them at all avenues,” he said.
Phil Bloom of DNR called the case an educational opportunity.
“We want to share the message with the public that rescuing an injured or abandoned baby wild animal may do the opposite of what you seek to accomplish, and it also may break the law,” he told Fox59.
He points out that the state legislature has several laws prohibiting the keeping of wild animals without a permit.
“Also there are federal laws that prohibit possession of migratory birds, including songbirds, raptors, waterfowl, in addition it is even illegal to treat wild animals for sickness or injury without a permit,” Bloom said.
He also said the DNR will issue permits to qualified people who can take in and help injured or orphaned animals before releasing them back into the wild.
Both Waudby and Bloom agreed that the state legislature will have to take a second look at the case.
“These laws were established by the state legislature, that would be the arena for that, to take place, if they see fit,” Bloom said.
“My goal after this is to have the law changed, so something like this doesn’t happen again to somebody,” Waudby said.