INDIANAPOLIS (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 two years.
The 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.
Gov. Mike 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.
The Decatur 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 yet arrived.
"Clearly, this was the right decision. And while we are a state of laws, there is also room for grace, and particularly for people who are trying to care for an injured animal," Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma said Friday.
Jennifer 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.
Jeff 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.