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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.
The DNR said in a statement that Gov. Mike Pence asked the agency to reevaluate the case and consider dismissing misdemeanor charges of illegal possession of a white-tailed deer against police officer Jeff Counceller and his wife, Jennifer, of Connersville.
The Decatur County prosecutor's office, which handled the case because Jeff Counceller is a police officer and works with local prosecutors, said in a statement that it had not yet received the department's request and would review the case once it had received it.
The case has sparked an Internet furor. A Facebook profile supporting the Councellers — 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.
Jeff Counceller said he found the deer in 2010 curled up on a front porch with maggot-infested puncture wounds, so he brought it back to his family's 17-acre farm to try to save it. The couple named the fawn Dani and kept it in a fenced enclosure.
The 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.
Last summer, the deer vanished on the day that the DNR planned to euthanize it, following the denial of the couple's request for a rescue permit.