Dani the deer is at the center of the Bambigate controversy.
Drop Charges Against Connersville Police Officer Facebook Page
(Connersville, Ind.) – An Indiana news story dubbed “Bambigate” is making national headlines.
A Connersville couple is facing charges for nursing a wounded fawn back to health. Jeff and Jennifer Counceller say they didn't know they were breaking the law.
Jeff, a Connersville Police officer, said he was on a call in 2010 when he discovered the deer which appeared to have been attacked by a coyote. He called the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. A conservation officer said to leave the deer, but Jeff knew that was a death sentence.
He and Jennifer took in the wild animal and guided it on a long road to recovery.
“She had really large puncture wounds to both sides of her back end. They were just covered in maggots,” Jennifer said.
“We thought it would be a relatively easy process but it turned into months. There were a lot of setbacks,” Jeff recalled.
The couple ended up keeping the deer, naming it Dani. All was fine until last June when the DNR discovered Dani in their possession and ordered the deer killed.
Dani turned up missing the same day she was to be put down.
“Somebody definitely was trying to protect Dani and get her back into the wild so she wouldn’t be executed,” Jennifer said.
But the DNR didn’t forgive and forget. The Councellers were charged with Illegal Possession of a Deer, a misdemeanor charge punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. They are scheduled to go to trial in March.
On Wednesday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence was asked for his assessment of Bambigate. The governor said it appears the DNR acted appropriately, but will ask for a review of the case.
“As most of you are aware, Indiana law prohibits the possession of wild animals and the Department of Natural Resources is tasked, under the law, by the General Assembly, to enforce those measures,” Pence said.
Jennifer Counceller says she hopes the public attention surrounding the story will have a positive effect.
“If anything the one thing that we do hope comes out of it is better laws to protect these injured animals and injured wildlife,” she said.
The story has caused a ton of debate in social media. A Facebook page titled “Drop Charges Against Connersville Police Officer” has over 35,000 likes as of Thursday.