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.