Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Save Bambi? Go to Jail!

One day a couple of years ago an Indiana police officer and his wife found an injured fawn on their neighbor's porch. They rescued it and nursed it back to health, planning on raising it until it matured and could survive on its own in the wild.

One day this past summer, an official with the Indiana Department of Conservation found out they had the deer. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said the deer could be dangerous and so they wanted to euthanize it. This is a funny position for a Department of Natural Resources to take. After all, the U.S. Treasury doesn't just throw away the money it prints...never mind.

Anyway, the day that the deer was scheduled to be put down (requested last meal: salt lick, hold the hunters), it escaped from its rescuers' back yard. For ordinary folks, that might be the end of it, although the police officer's commanders might want him to review jail security procedures. Some of the people he arrests might be almost as smart as the deer and present a greater risk of escape. But not for the brave bureaucrats of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources! The police officer and his wife have been charged with a misdemeanor count of "unlawful possession of a deer," which carries a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to 60 days in the county lockup. It also carries with it the question as to what exactly constitutes lawful possession of a deer in Indiana, but the online information provided by the state of Indiana is not clear.

Now, the police officer and his wife probably should have called a zoo or wildlife refuge to take care of the deer. We think of them as timid and mild, but deer have some pretty powerful legs and if threatened can kick the stuffing out of you or even cave in your skull with a lucky strike. Mating season and other times can bring out aggression in them and like any animal, if they for some reason feel cornered or threatened they will fight. They are wild animals and are not a good fit for a developed neighborhood. A police officer has a special duty to the law and might need to be mindful of the example he or she sets with respect to it.

But does that mean that the couple should have to face the possibility of fines and -- however unlikely --  jail time for this mistake? If your answer is yes, you should probably move to Indiana. They've got some jobs for which you might be an excellent fit.

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