Indiana House speaker calls for deer-saving couple’s pardon

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State lawmakers are responding to the controversy over Dani the deer.

The case, involving a Connersville couple charged with illegally possessing a white-tailed deer, has drawn national attention.

The Department of Natural Resources filed a misdemeanor charge against Jeff and Jennifer Counceller after the couple took in a wounded deer in the summer of 2010.

Jennifer Counceller said the deer had been badly injured by a coyote and would have died if she and her husband hadn’t taken her in.

The couple can’t believe the case now has the attention of state lawmakers, and even Governor Pence, who said Wednesday that he felt the DNR acted appropriately and within the law.

“I might have made different comments in that regard,” said House Speaker Brian Bosma, R-Indianapolis. “But of course, the Governor’s in charge of DNR and it’s his prerogative. I’m not going to criticize it, but a gubernatorial pardon did seem to be in order.”

“I understand where the Governor and the DNR is coming from,” said State Rep. Sean Eberhart, R-Shelbyville, chair of the Natural Resources Committee. “But I also think compassion and reasonability need to enter into this equation as well.”

“I think that common sense is certainly at the core of this, or the lack of common sense,” said Rep. Cheryl Ziemle, R-Oldenburg. “Everyone in our government agencies works very hard to do the right thing. So this, too, will be handled. It’s in (the Governor’s) hands, and I’m sure he’ll make the decision regarding this.”

Jennifer Counceller thinks the legislature needs to review the law which applied to her case.

“I’m not denying that we had the deer, and that they’re saying that was against the law,” she said.  “But it was what was the right thing to do.”

Counceller said she is prepared to fight the charges all the way, even if it means going to jail. The class A misdemeanor charge carries a $500 fine and possible sentence of up to six months.

The Councellers have a pretrial hearing scheduled for Feb. 20.  Their trial is set for March. Since Jeff Counceller is a Connersville Police Officer in Fayette County, the case is being handled by a special prosecutor in Decatur County.

Meantime, Dani the deer seems to be doing fine these days. Jennfer said Dani has joined a group of deer who occasionally come to drink from a pond on their property.  They said they see her from time to time.  She looks to be healthy, according to Jennifer.

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