(AP) — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said Friday it is
asking a prosecutor to drop charges against a couple who nursed an injured
baby deer back to health and kept it in an enclosure on their property for
misdemeanor charges of illegal possession of a white-tailed deer against
police officer Jeff Counceller and his wife, Jennifer, spawned a public
outcry. A Facebook page and online petition sprung up in their defense.
Pence asked the DNR to review the case this week, and on Friday the agency
said in a statement that it would ask prosecutors to dismiss the charge,
which carries a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
County prosecutor's office said in a statement that it would review the
case once it has received the department's request, but that it had not
Councellor said she is pleased the agency has reconsidered.
"I had hopes
that it would come out this way because it was obvious that much of the
world saw the compassion of what we did and there was not criminal
intent," she told The Indianapolis Star. The Councellers did not return
phone calls Friday from The Associated Press seeking comment.
Counceller said he found the deer in 2010 curled up on a front porch with
maggot-infested puncture wounds, so he took it back to his family's
17-acre farm in Connersville to try to save it. The couple named the fawn
Dani and kept it in a fenced enclosure.
Councellers said they had intended to release the deer once it was strong
enough to survive on its own. They tried to find it a home at animal
rescue operations, petting zoos and deer farms, but no one would take it.
They applied for a rescue permit but were turned down.
summer, the deer vanished on the very day the DNR planned to euthanize it.
The agency then asked for charges to be brought against the Councellers.
profile supporting the couple — Drop Charges Against Connersville Police
Officer — has drawn more than 38,000 likes, and an online petition calling
for the charges to be dismissed has attracted more than 30,000 signatures.
Wednesday it appeared that conservation officers had properly followed
state law barring residents from keeping wild animals. But he also said he
had asked the DNR for a briefing and noted that Hoosiers clearly love
County Prosecutor's office, which handled the case because Jeff Counceller
is a police officer in Fayette County and works with prosecutors there,
urged state officials to review the law.
"We hope that
the Department of Natural Resources and the Indiana legislature will take
this opportunity to review that statute and decide if matters like these
allegations should be handled as crimes or infractions in the future," the
prosecutors' statement said.