Woman says she prefers prison over giving up her captive deer
Mount Vernon, Ohio — A former veterinary technician said she will be willing to go to jail if it would spare the lives of two young white-tailed deer and four raccoons she nursed back to health on her 12.5-acre Knox County farm.
Carol Deyo, 65, pleaded not guilty in January to misdemeanor charges filed by the DNR Division of Wildlife, which accuses Deyo of illegally taking out of the wild and possessing deer and raccoons. If convicted, Deyo could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
“The law is clear. Wild animals are the property of the state and managed by the (Ohio Department of Natural Resources),” City Law Director Chip McConville said. “Unless you have a legal right (to possess wildlife) or appropriate permit, you are in violation of the law.”
The DOW is prepared to recommend to the Knox County court the deer and raccoons kept by Deyo should be forfeited for the purpose of the animals being euthanized.
An August trial date was postponed until Nov. 21 at Deyo’s request, because of Deyo’s health concerns – she is under doctors’ supervision for treatment of breast cancer and congestive heart failure, she said.
The DOW began its investigation in October 2012 after receiving a complaint Deyo was keeping two white-tailed deer and four raccoons, possibly as pets and without permits.
Wildlife officer Joshua Shields interviewed Deyo on Nov. 17 and Deyo told Shields she knew it was illegal to keep or take the deer and raccoons from the wild, and she also knew she could not possess such animals without permits, according to Shields’ written investigation.
Shields noted Deyo was cooperative in the investigation, and Deyo was taking good care of the animals. Deyo also keeps seven horses, two goats, a pig, duck, and several chickens on the property.
One of the deer, nicknamed Trooper, was injured as a fawn in the spring of 2011 when a hay mower cut off its hind right leg. Deyo stitched, neutered, and nursed the fawn back to health. At the time of Shields’ investigation and inspection, the deer was 11⁄2 years old without antlers because of its being neutered.
The second deer, nicknamed Patch, was acquired by Deyo in July 2012 when the animal was brought to her by others who had found the deer in a Mount Vernon parking lot. Shields said in his report the second deer was brought to Deyo dehydrated and “thought to be blind at the time it was brought to her to care for.”
Deyo neutered the young antlerless buck and nurtured it back to health on her farm where both deer are kept in a barn and a fenced pen.
Her horses love the deer, she said.
“They run up and down their fence to play together,” she said.
The racoons came in two batches from road-kill incidents over several years, and Deyo spayed and neutered the animals.
“The raccoons were very large and received both feline and canine vaccinations from Carol annually,” Shields wrote in his investigative findings. “The raccoons had obstacles and dens in the (corn) crib, and it was obvious that (Deyo and her boyfriend) took good care of the animals.”
Soon after acquiring the animals, she contacted several animal rehabilitators about taking them, but was told they could not accept orphaned fawns or raccoons, she said.
Since 2009, Ohio’s wildlife rehabilitators have been barred from rehabilitating orphan fawns because of diseases such as fatal chronic wasting disease, which was first detected in wild deer in 1967 and has not been found in Ohio since testing began in 2002. CWD, a communicable disease, has no known cure.
Changes for the handling of raccoons occurred in the 1990s because of concerns over raccoon strain rabies, according to the DOW.
“In each case of an illegally confined fawn, the Division will address the emotion of the situation, take possession of the animal, and either return it to the wild if we feel that it has a chance of surviving, or humanely euthanize it,” DOW official Carolyn Caldwell wrote in a 2009 letter to wildlife rehabilitators, announcing the ban on rehabbing whitetail fawns.
“Each situation will be handled after considering all factors, including the condition of the fawn, the length of time the animal was in captivity, and the type of habitat the animal was taken from,” Caldwell wrote.
Deyo has recently received public and social media support for saving her animals by way of Facebook and change.org, which has garnered more than 7,000 signatures urging DOW Chief Scott Zody, Ohio DNR Director James Zehringer, and Ohio Rep. Margaret Ruhl of Mount Vernon, to grant Deyo permits to keep the deer and raccoons.
In addition, Deyo said she has requested an exhibitor’s license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to accommodate requests from the public to see the deer and raccoons and her other farm animals.
“We had a boy in a wheelchair to come to see them, and his face lit up,” Deyo said.
Deyo’s fight to save the animals from being euthanized has made national headlines, including in The Intelligencer newspaper in West Virginia.
In an editorial Aug. 14, the Wheeling newspaper opined: “Adopting wild animals almost never is a good idea. Most people get that. But sometimes they break the rule because they believe it is a matter of life and death to an animal. … The creatures themselves should not pay with their lives because humans broke the law by saving them in the first place.”
Even a letter writer to The Columbus Dispatch suggested Gov. John Kasich should save the deer by executive order granting them amnesty.
Local veterinarian W. Greg Price has offered Deyo support in the form of a letter, which Deyo shared with Ohio Outdoor News. Price, who has worked with Deyo since 2006, described her as “compassionate yet practical in regard to the care of her animals.”
As for the care of the injured orphan fawn, Price wrote, “I am sure that her intentions are noble; without her care this animal would have died. … I would hope in this situation that an exception could be made. … Other than policy, there is no reason that Carol could not appropriately care for this animal.”
Deyo said the animals have become part of her family.
She can become emotional when she describes three-legged Trooper, the injured fawn she restored to health, and she feels its struggle to survive helped her battle her health issues.
“He made it,” Deyo said, “and he helped me make it.”