We’re All For Law & Order Until…

by Curt Kovener    

A longtime friend often said “I’m all for law & order but leave me and my bookie alone.” He also said “No good deed goes unpunished.”

Both have application in this week’s column.

Most of us consider ourselves law-abiding citizens but occasionally we stick a toe just over the legal line. Like the local minister who was speeding the other day when he passed me on the interstate. I know he was speeding because I was too.

The conservation officers with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources are responsible for enforcing laws just like local, county and state police are. But sometimes it is better to carefully consider your battles and sense of perspective.

Maybe we should review the saga of Dani the deer that has captivated Indiana and parts of the nation with its government versus the little guy plotline.

The quick version of the story is Jeff & Jennifer Counceller, a Connersville couple, found an injured fawn two years ago, nursed it back to health and up until very recently still cared for it now that it’s an adult. Last month, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources stepped in and charged the couple with illegal possession of a white-tailed deer. The possible penalty for the misdemeanor: up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The DNR was standing by its decision — including the part about confiscating the deer and euthanising it.

That’s when Indiana DNR became an eye rolling “what were they thinking” butt of jokes and the focus of outrage by the public.

Then we #$%^& media, recognizing a good story began publishing stories and updates about the now healed whitetail deer the rescuers named Dani and the mean villains at the DNR who wanted to kill it.

But then Dani went missing. No one is sure how the deer got out of his fenced area. Who took up the “Free Dani” movement…his rescuers? neighbors? a menacing whitetail deer gang? Regardless, the deer went on the lam, probably hiding in some woods somewhere.

Now the rescuers were in violation of the law because they had a deer in their possession. One they rescued. They weren’t breeding the deer. They weren’t dealing in deer or deer parts. They weren’t operating a hunting compound.

They did what most compassionate people would do when we come across a wounded animal. They offered care and comfort even though wildlife officials advise, “don’t do it”. They just offered care and comfort too long for the outdoor law enforcement officers, I suppose.

Oh-Oh…I just had a chilling thought. A few weeks back I wrote about feeding the birds at the wilderness and how wild turkeys came up to the feeder and scratched for seeds dropped by the songbirds. Was I inadvertently guilty of baiting wild animals?

After enough public outcry over Dani the deer, the DNR began looking for some public relations cover. But they didn’t find it from Indiana’s new Governor Mike Pence.

Rather than talk through a more reasonable solution with DNR officials who answer to him, the governor went to bat for them, saying, “conservation officers acted appropriately and in a manner consistent with Indiana law.”

And indeed they did. But Hoosiers were still bent out of shape over the DNR’s over-reach.

Late last week a news release was sent out by the DNR PR department that the agency would be asking the prosecutor to drop charges against the Connersville animal rescuers.

There are battles worth fighting. This wasn’t one of them.

I hope the next time a preacher and I are breaking the law on the interstate that Dani the deer doesn’t decide to come out of hiding.