An Indiana couple says they were just trying to nurse an injured deer back to health when they took the little animal in, but now they're facing criminal charges, according to local media reports.
Connersville, Ind., police officer Jeff Counceller rescued the little deer, which he said he found with wounds on it haunches on a porch during a police call two years ago, NBC affiliate WTHR in Indianapolis reported.
"I was gonna put her back in the woods, but I seen (sic) the injuries and I knew they were life threatening," Counceller told WTHR. So he and wife Jennifer nursed the deer -- which they named "Dani" -- back to health and built a pen for the animal in their backyard near the woods until the deer grew stronger, WTHR reported.
The couple told WTHR it wasn't a secret that they had the deer, and they had tried calling several deer habitats across the state but found they were too full at the time.
"She would run around. She would play. We would feed her crack corn and deer chow and other things," Jeff Counceller told WTHR. "Again, we knew someday that we needed to turn her loose."
But last year, the Indiana Department of Natural Resources found that the couple should be prosecuted for the illegal possession of a white-tailed deer, according to The Indianapolis Star. State officials were going to have the deer euthanized because she had reportedly been around humans too long, but the deer escaped the day it was going to happen when a gate was left open, WTHR reported.
The Councellers could be punished with up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for the misdemeanor charge against them, the Star reported.
In the last few days, the couple's conundrum has garnered international attention. A Facebook page pushing for the charges to be dropped had more than 19,000 likes by Tuesday evening. A similar petition on Change.org had more than 16,000 supporters by Tuesday evening.
John Waudby, who created the Facebook page on Saturday, told WTHR he thinks "eventually public pressure will drop these charges."
Carmel, Ind., resident Suzanne Murray told the Star in an email that she finds "the actions of the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) in this case outrageous and nonsensical."
A jury trial is expected in March, and a special prosecutor and judge have been assigned to the case, WTHR reported.
Nicole Pence and Emily Longnecker, both of NBC affiliate WTHR, contributed to this story.