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Indiana Officer and Wife Could Face Jail for Saving Deer

Should an Indiana couple go to jail for saving Bambi?
That's the question surrounding the case of Jeff and Jennifer Counceller, who rescued an injured fawn and nursed it back to health at their Connersville, Ind., home. The couple now faces the possibility of jail time and fines after state officials charged them with a misdemeanor for harboring the animal.
Jeff Counceller, a police officer in Connersville, and his wife were charged with unlawful possession of a deer, a misdemeanor that punished to its fullest extent could put the Councellers in jail for up to 60 days and cost them up to $2,000 in fines.
The couple rescued the deer more than two years ago after finding it on their neighbor's porch. The Councellers said the deer had sustained injuries, and they wanted to nurse it back to health.
"I could feel all of the open wounds all along her back side and she wouldn't stand up," Jennifer Counceller told ABC News.
They brought the deer home and named her Little Orphan Dani.
The Councellers said an Indiana Conservation Officer stopped by their home and discovered the deer this past summer. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources wanted to euthanize Dani, saying she might be dangerous and a threat to people.
"I was devastated. I spent a year and several months nursing her into adulthood, getting to the point where she was able to go out on her own," Counceller said.
On the day Dani was to be put down, the Councellers said she inexplicably escaped from their backyard. Even though Dani disappeared back into the wild, the Councellers' legal problems didn't go with the fawn.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said it couldn't comment on pending litigation but that it did discourage people from taking in injured wildlife. This case could go to court next month, and if charges aren't dropped, it will be left for a jury to decide whether the Councellers broke the law.
"No matter what the law is, we did what was right for the animal," Counceller said.
Meanwhile, the story has caused uproar on the Internet. A Facebook support page has more than 6,400 "Likes" in support of the couple. An online petition to drop the charges already has more than 3,800 signatures.
Rick on wrote, "An act of humanity should not be rewarded with a sentence."
Michelle on Facebook wrote, "They are being punished for having compassion and showing kindness."
The Councellers' case could go to court next month.


  • Seems to me the old saying "no victim no crime" or, where's your proof I had a deer in my house, can you show it to me?
  • This is another example of 'Big Brother' trying to penalize someone for doing the right thing. They should put down the goofs that make these laws.
  • Just absurd... Nursed the animal back to health, did nothing wrong, and are being penalized... our country's legal system is very messed up.
  • Not only was there no "victim" here, but a life was SAVED by their actions. They affected a rescue! Kindness to animals is now a prosecutable offense?! Ok, who's running for office on this one?
  • just can't believe the the almighty greenback could mean so much to any state that they would punish someone for helping poor defenseless animals when injured by imposing large fines and possible jail time, only to pad their own pockets with the cash that these hard working people have earned. maybe everyone should get the attitude of not caring anymore, would definitely make a lot of peoples jobs alot harder, and then they might have to earn their money instead of sitting on their butts while we earn it for them. PATHETIC.
  • Deer can be extremely dangerous and the law was made to both protect citizens and allow nature to take its course, and to protect wildlife from humans, who more often than not do not help but actually harm wildlife. Having said that, to prosecute these people over a situation which actually worked to wildlife's advantage is insane and the function of a mindless bureaucracy.
  • This is a case of do the right thing on all accounts! The Officer should never have taken the animal and violated the law. Officers are not above the law and should conduct themselves 100% of the time above reproach, on and off duty. I disagree with many laws and think some are frivolous, however I would never violate them. It's a code of honor I live by. As far as the prosecution is concerned, hey we all know it is big boy and girl rules out there, he should man up, shut his mouth take care of it and move on.
  • The ironic thing is they doomed that deer to a slow and agonizing death due to their intervention. Most likely the deer will starve to death or be eaten by coyotes because it has been domesticated and has no survival skills anymore..... They might as well shot it when they let it escape rather than let the DNR do their job. It would have been much better off to be euthanized as a fawn compared to the short life it will live now. Being a cop, he should have known better than to illegally take an animal and NOT report it to anyone for over a year. If he really cared about the deer and not having a "cool" pet, he would have contacted the DNR and got the information for the local wildlife rehabber who has the knowledge to do it right so the deer can survive in the wild once healthy.

    Although the article makes the cop look like a victim quite well, as we all know there are two sides of the story. Most likely a neighbor or neighbors complained about the animal and it may have been (most likely was) a danger to the neighborhood kids. I also have a funny feeling that they may have talked themselves into the charges by not cooperating once they were found out.

    All I can say is I have zero sympathy for them, I think the cop acted like most of the people he writes tickets too...
  • I agree with Warden522. I feel being a police officer one should know the laws. I have had to handle a call somewhat similar when two 8 year old boys were attacked by a deer raise in a suburban area. The two boys were on a swing set and the deer attacked them with it's front legs. The two boys had pretty good bruises. You can't tell me that this officer doesn't know the conservation officer in his area or how to contact him. By letting the deer eascape he very well could endanger the very people who he is sworn to protect. The deer is going to associate people with food and when he doesn't get fed, could hurt someone. Laws on keeping wildlife captive are in place to protect the wildlife and public. The public who this officer is sworn to protect.
  • I have worked with a rescue center on behalf of the Missouri State Conservation Department and fostered 4 baby raccoons needing to be bottle fed, weened and taken back to the rescue center to be unconditioned from human contact to be released back into the wild where they should be. This rescue center has had other wild animals including deer in their conservation rehabilitation area to limit the human contact with the animals.
    Officers know how to contact the correct authority in cases like this. Wild animals can and will be unpredictable. Even my foster baby coons were showing natural instinct a week before I took them back to the rescue center. All animals need to be rehabilitated where it is best for animals and humans and with people who are qualified to see they get the proper care.
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  • I can't believe some of the BS I read here. Especially those that feel these people should be prosecuted for something like keeping a wild animal from dying. How did you ever get into law enforcement with such psycho-anal attitudes?
  • With your attitude towards Law Enforcement Officers I am wondering the same thing...

    So are you telling me that LEO's are above the law? Especially the ones we don't agree with, or that it is ok to break the law when it fits our personal agenda? And I take it as an LEO, it is ok to just overlook obvious violations of the law by another LEO, even if they are less than cooperative? So if this same LEO had committed a felony in the name of saving some furry woodland creature you would just let it go because he saved an animal from dying??

    And you forget, by letting the animal "escape" he ensured it's certain demise...

    I mean no disrespect, but your attitude towards this confuses me.
  • I never said any LEO is above the law. But at the same time, we give breaks every day to violators. The DA's office plea bargains down felonies to misdemeanors and turns scum back out on the street for us to deal with again. You copped a "go for the officers" throat right out of the gate when all he did was rescue an animal. And you want the weight of the law to bear down on him in such a way that it cost him and his wife their jobs? I once had a very great man tell me that you don't always go for the kill, there are those times when you temper justice with mercy. Judging from your condemnation of these people , I surmise that you have no compassion or understanding of or forpeople that make well intentioned mistakes. You want these people treated like meth dealers? Or a rapist? I think not. So lighten up a bit. Zero sympathy? I stand by my original comments. We are not jack booted thugs that are meant to terrorize the citizens for saving an animals life. And cut the crap about dooming the deer. They are a lot more resiliant and resourceful than you are obviously aware of. I hope my attitude is a bit clearer.
  • In case you missed it by my username, I work with these deer all the time. Yes they are very resilient, but not when you raise them by hand in your back yard and then kick them loose. And before you start comparing these two to Mother Theresa, maybe we should hear the other side of the story..
  • You are right Oldschool, the DA's office plea bargains all the time. We are all LEOs here even if you don't think much of conservation officers. I have worked as a street cop, undercover drugs, clan labs, child sexual assaults and now I'm proud to say I too am a game warden. My guess this is a misdeamor offense for one to loose his job, I don't think so. I question ethics of the officer in letting the deer escape. The deer was technically evidence left in the care and trust of him as a LEO. Evidence tampering maybe. Once again, as a LEO he should know the laws and let trained and properly permitted individuals care for the wildlife.
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