Carol Deyo’s small Knox County farm could have been lifted straight out of a children’s book. Horses graze around a pond. A pig slops corn from a bowl while two goats watch from afar.
Peering through chicken wire stretched across a barn door are two adult deer, their necks craned and ears perked as Deyo approaches. As she steps in with them, they greet her, licking her hands and face, tugging at the hem of her shirt and following her wherever she goes.
They, like the four raccoons slumbering in a corn crib just outside the barn, are pets — pets that Deyo, a former veterinary technician, nursed back to health. In doing so, she broke the law.
The Ohio Department of Natural Resources charged Deyo in January with two counts of possessing wild animals — a count for the two deer and another count for the raccoons. It’s a fourth-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a $250 fine on each count.
Her jury trial is scheduled for Aug. 29 in Mount Vernon Municipal Court.
“I’ll go to jail,” Deyo said. “I’ll pay the fines. Just don’t destroy these animals.”
But if she’s convicted, that’s the likely outcome. The deer aren’t able to live on their own in the wild; all they’ve known is human care.
Deyo’s collection began with a raccoon, found by a neighbor, barely days old beside its dead mother. Deyo bottle-fed it to health. Another followed shortly thereafter.
The first deer came in April 2011. Deyo’s boyfriend was cutting hay, and a doe leapt out of the mower’s path. Deyo later found a fawn, just a couple of days old, where the doe had flushed. The mower had sliced off the fawn’s right hind leg and splayed open its stomach.
“Our first inclination was to put him down,” Deyo said. “But we couldn’t pull the trigger. He had a will to live. You could see it. He was licking our hands, sucking our fingers.”
Deyo stitched the wound with a thread of horse tail. “Within two days he was up chasing the cats,” she said. She named him Trooper.
His arrival, she said, was a gift. Deyo’s breast cancer had been diagnosed in 2010. Treatment damaged her heart, and she’d recently been hospitalized with congestive heart failure.
“Trooper showed up when I was in a bad place with treatment,” Deyo said.
Fifteen months later, two men brought Deyo a fawn they had found under a car in a parking lot in Mount Vernon. “He was severely dehydrated and started seizing when he got here,” she said. “It was obvious he’d been hit.”
She named him Patch.
A Division of Wildlife officer appeared at Deyo’s door in November, responding to an anonymous complaint.
“The law is crystal clear, and this is a clear violation. Period,” said Mount Vernon Law Director Chip McConville, who is prosecuting the case. “If we start letting people take animals out of the wild, it would set a terrible precedent.”
Deyo has taken her appeal to the public. A Facebook page, SavingTrooper, has more than 1,000 followers from all over the country. A petition, intended for state Rep. Bob Gibbs and ODNR Director Scott Zody, has more than 1,500 signatures.
The state does issue permits, including educators’ permits, to keep domestic-born deer, and those go to established institutions, ODNR spokeswoman Bethany McCorkle said, such as deer farms and private deer-hunting grounds.
There also are permits for animal-rehabilitation facilities — more than 60 in Ohio, but the state outlawed the rehabilitation of deer in 2009 as Chronic Wasting Disease began to appear in deer herds in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Michigan. It has not been seen in Ohio.
“I cringe when these stories do come up because the law gets a black eye,” said Becky Crow, the president of the Ohio Wildlife Rehabilitation Association. “But the law is in place for a good reason.”
Deyo disagrees. “You can grant clemency for a murderer, but not a deer?”
By Eric Lyttle - The Columbus Dispatch, Ohio (MCT)
©2013 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)
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