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Indiana Couple Jeff and Jennifer Counceller Face Jail for Rescuing Injured Baby Deer

13 WTHR Indianapolis

A central Indiana police officer and his wife could face jail time for rescuing an injured fawn that state natural resources officials condemned to die.

WTHR reports that Jeff and Jennifer Counceller of Connersville could face two months behind bars if they are found guilty of illegally harboring a wild animal.

The couples’ troubles stem from Jeff’s decision to rescue an injured fawn two years ago. The 14-year police veteran found the vulnerable animal on the porch of a home while responding to a call.

“I was gonna put her back in the woods, but I [saw] the injuries and I knew they were life-threatening so I called Jennifer,” Counceller told WTHR. Jennifer, who is a nurse, said she “couldn’t let her just die there.”

“We called her little orphan Dani,” Jennifer said. “She’s definitely changed our lives.”

In more ways than they could have imagined. The Councellers built an enclosure for Dani as they nursed her back to health, knowing full well that they’d have to release her back into the wild one day. They planned on doing so last summer as soon as the corn crops matured enough so that Dani would have enough to eat.

The couple was about six weeks away from letting Dani go when they received a visit from a state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officer. He told the couple that they would have to obtain a rescue permit in order to keep the animal, but Jennifer was unable to do so.

“[DNR] basically just told me that I was in illegal possession of the deer and that they would not give me a rescue permit,” Jennifer told WTHR. Even worse, she was informed that DNR planned on euthanizing Dani.

“She was a threat to society is what they said,” Jeff told WTHR.

DNR originally planned on shooting the deer, but a veterinarian was located who could euthanize her with a deadly injection. But on the day the deer was scheduled to die, someone left the gate to her enclosure open– the Councellers insist it was not them– and Dani managed to bolt to freedom.

The couple is now facing criminal charges.

“We’ve never had any criminal convictions. We’re good people,” Jennifer told WTHR. Jeff calls the effort to prosecute them “a complete waste of taxpayer’s money.” But the couple isn’t afraid of going to trial.

“I feel like I’m going to stand up for what I know is right,” Jennifer said.

The Concellers don’t know what became of Dani, although Jennifer said she “knows in her heart” that the deer is among a group that sometimes visits their property. She said one deer does not run away nearly as quickly as the others.

“I’m happy she’s with the other deer and that she’s getting to live her life,” she told WTHR.

This isn’t the first time a deer has gotten someone in trouble lately. Illinois geneticist Dr. Raymond Favero was sentenced to three years’ probation and a $30,000 fine last month for acquiring $92,000 worth of semen from illegally imported deer.

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  1. randal holtzJanuary 27, 2013 at 7:52 amReply

    we can save bached whales and rescue birds and other wildlife from oil spills, but lets not save the deer. we hunt them down, often using military grade automatic weapons, to eliminate over population. and now we punish people who would save an injured deer. this is just one more reason why our society has become so violent. i’s a well known fact that serial killers in our society often start out by killingand mutilating innocent and helpless animals. and now we have the state of indiana encouraging such behavior.
    well done DNR. you should all be ashamed.

  2. Mary ZJanuary 28, 2013 at 7:20 amReply

    I think the charges should be dropped and they should be given a rescue license so they can help more animals. Thank God for kind people like them who value life and help animals! Spend taxpayer dollars on something else, not a trial for these good people. A deer’s life was saved. It’s wonderful. End of story.

  3. Teresa BurtnerJanuary 29, 2013 at 6:51 amReply

    I can’t even believe this is happening! Do we not have anything better to do with our time and money than to prosecute innocent people for helping an injured deer?! Let these people go!! They have been punished enough! Our society has become so violent and rigid and totally out of hand! Where is the love in our hearts and the compassion for another living soul, man or animal? Are we so disconnected that we would feel the need to prosecute these loving, caring people?! If we can’t find it in our hearts to take care of something or someone less fortunate than ourselves, that’s clearly in pain and enduring suffering…God help us all! What are we teaching our kids? Do the right thing and don’t prosecute them!

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