INDIANAPOLIS — An Indiana police officer said he does not know how Dani the deer slipped into the wild before the state could execute her, but he does not think he should be prosecuted in the case.
Neither do 60,000 other people who are demanding online that charges be dropped.
Jeff Counceller and his wife were charged with illegal possession of a wild animal for bringing the injured fawn to their Connersville home more than two years ago. They have said they planned to nurse her back to health and release her.
When the Indiana Department of Natural Resources sent an officer to their property last summer to kill Dani under department rules, she was gone from her pen. The Councellers have said they do not know who left the gate open, but it was not them. Dani has been in the wild since then.
Indiana state law prohibits handling wild animals without a permit because there is a threat of disease transmission.
“At the end of the day, the deer survived and that’s all that matters,” said Jeff Counceller, a Connersville police officer. “She’s getting to live a hopefully long life and that’s all that matters.”
Outrage over the charges sparked a change.org online petition with more than 30,000 signatures and a Facebook page “Drop Charges Against Connersville Police Officer” with more than 36,000 “likes” on Thursday.
A legal defense fund received more than $2,100 in pledges and the couple made an appearance on “Good Morning America.”
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has asked for a review of the case, his press secretary Kara Brooks said.
“I never wanted it to balloon as it has,” said Jeff Counceller. “I just wanted to be treated fairly, and I don’t think I have been because I am a police officer.”
Indiana Department of Natural Resources spokesman Bill Browne said the department could not comment on ongoing litigation.