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Dani the deer and state government overreach

By Scott Tibbs, February 7, 2013

Citizens of the state of Indiana need to obey the law and state government has an obligation to enforce the law. But many times, government officials need to use wisdom and discernment in how they deal with violations of the law and the intentions of those who have broken the law, and make a compassionate decision about what is the best way to proceed in a way that honors the law and is prudent policy.

Indiana's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has filed in every level to do this in the case of Dani the deer. (See stories from the Indianapolis Star here, here, here and here.)

It all started when a Connersville police officer and his wife rescued a young deer that had been attacked by a predator. Rather than "letting nature take its course) and allowing the deer to die a slow and agonizing death, they cleaned the deer's maggot-infested wound and nursed it back to health, intending to release it when it was strong enough to make it alone in the wild. For this, the DNR wants them put in jail for 60 days.

Two months in jail for having compassion on a dying animal? Really?

Look, I understand the DNR's position. We have laws against keeping wild animals for good reasons, both to protect human health against disease and parasites carried by wild animals and to protect the animals themselves as they are not meant to be domesticated. And as we hear many times, ignorance of the law is not an excuse for breaking it. Clearly, some sort of sanction is appropriate - perhaps a fine and a warning.

But two months in jail? That is excessive, extreme and insane.

Newly elected governor Mike Pence said in remarks to the media that "it appears our conservation officers acted appropriately and in a manner consistent with Indiana law."

No, Governor Pence, they did not. They could have simply got a warning and a fine. Instead, the DNR was overly aggressive and decided to "make an example" out of them. The DNR wants to put these people in jail for two months, wasting thousands of taxpayer dollars and creating a severe disruption for their lives and careers. The employees responsible should be fired. We do not need authoritarian ninnies like this working for state government.