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Web letter by Phillip E. Haberkorn: Susie set the standard for humane treatment of deer

I wish to add some perspective to the flap about the Indiana couple who took in an injured fawn and nursed it back to health and nearly faced criminal charges of violating Indiana’s laws that give the state the authority to monitor and control the deer population.

If saving a deer is a crime, hundreds of residents of Butler and kids attending the local schools should have been prosecuted decades ago.

In the 1970s, a fawn wandering around town was adopted by folks who would coax her into their yards, and she gradually became accustomed to being in the presence of humans. Next thing you know, she had a pretty regular routine of making the rounds to visit those friends of hers who could be counted on to provide her a snack or to visit kids in the schoolyard.

The local city government even made her “adoption” semi-official by posting signs at each end of town on U.S. 6, warning drivers to slow down and watch out for Susie the Deer.

It wasn’t long before truckers would get on their CB radios to report Susie sightings.

Doesn’t it take an official act of government to put signs up in the highway right-of-way? Like an ordinance passed by City Council? Why didn’t the DNR or state highway department order the city to take those signs down?

And where were the local police during all this? Parking their patrol cars to feed Susie, that’s where.

At our Auburn radio station, WIFF, our daily Butler newscast by Pat Oberlin wasn’t complete until she updated listeners on Susie’s activities. “If I don’t say something about her, my phone will start ringing off the wall,” she explained to me when I began my term as news director. I now wonder whether all of her news scripts about Susie might have made a good book (something her family might consider if those materials were saved). I know there are plenty of folks in Butler who can still show you their Susie the Deer photo collections.

I suggest those in high office take a step back from parsing out the letter of the law, even the spirit of the law, and consider a greater good. I’ve read where the couple who saved this fawn made attempts to release her into the wild or find a more appropriate place for her to live, so it’s not like they were trying to hide her away and keep anybody from finding out as if they might be considered criminals.

So now, the thanks they get is that they are apparently considered criminals by a state whose laws are written to protect the deer population in general.

But where’s the law that protects a deer in particular, like the citizens of Butler did?

I suggest a legal precedent has been set, and the DNR, the governor, and anybody else trying to work this out in their heads should consider the example set by those fine folks, not to mention Susie herself, and that this precedent be formally codified in some fashion.

Susie has long since gone to deer heaven after a long and productive life as more than just a pet, but a member of the Butler family.

Have we learned from her example?