CONNERSVILLE, IN - An eastern Indiana couple say they plan to fight misdemeanor charges brought after they refused to release an injured fawn before they could nurse it back to health.
Jeff Counceller, a Connersville police officer, said he found the deer curled up on a front porch with maggot-infested puncture wounds in 2010. He and his wife, Jennifer, kept the deer in an enclosure on their 17-acre farm and named her Dani, The Indianapolis Star reported.
The state Department of Natural Resources told the couple to return the deer to the wild, but they kept it and nursed it back to health. The Councellers 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 newspaper that 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 it after the couple's request for a rescue permit was denied.
Although lawyer's fees would be more expensive than paying 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 site urging the DNR to drop charges against the couple had more than 11,000 likes by mid-day Tuesday, while an online petition making the same request had topped 8,000 signatures.