Thursday, September 13, 2007

Deer seized from Molalla farm

A news story that is attracting the most attention in the Portland media involves a family at Molalla, Ore. that adopted two deer they raised as pets — but now have lost their deer because police and wildlife officers are enforcing regulations because the deer weren’t legally acquired.

According to the Oregonian newspaper, Jim Filipetti and his partner Francesca Mantei had found a fawn along the side of the road six years ago while they were driving their kids to catch a school bus.

The fawn, a black-tailed deer that is a unique white color with brown spots, was in poor condition. “She was weak, with deformed back legs and hooves that curved inward, cutting her when she tried to walk,” said the Oregonian story.

The deer needed help, and the couple obliged. “Filipetti scooped her up and brought her home. He took her to a veterinarian in Woodburn, who fitted her deformed legs with tiny casts to straighten them, changing the casts every 10 days. At home, they put carpet scraps on the wood floors to keep Snowball from slipping. And come holiday season, they let Snowball nibble their Christmas tree.

“The doe lived in the house for almost a year, Mantei said. She slept at their bedside and picked up mannerisms from the family dog — Tasha, a cocker spaniel — pawing at people with a hoof when she wanted attention.”

Snowball was mated with a buck the family had briefly, and about a year ago Snowball had a buck they named Bucky.

State troopers visited the farm in April this year after an anonymous tip in March that the family had illegal deer on their place. Yesterday, the police returned with state wildlife officers.

The media captured in print and on TV the agonizing images and upset comments of the owners as they pleaded and argued to keep their deer. However, it did no good. After several hours, the animals were tranquilized, crated, and taken away.

As the Oregonian pointed out, there are now “three possible outcomes: transfer to a licensed wildlife facility, release into the wild or euthanasia.”

After yesterday, the fear is that the animals will probably experience the last option.

As for the owners, they could face up to a year in jail, and a fine of more than $6,000, for not having the proper permits to capture and possess wildlife at their place.

As one of the officers remarked, as soon as they found the fawn, they should have gone first to the police or wildlife officers, although Filipetti has argued the fawn would never have survived until now if they had done that. The health of the fawn at the time probably would have just led to it being killed six years ago.

The reaction to the story has been strong. The Portland television stations showed a glimpse of the flood of emails that came in, most people quite upset that the deer were taken away.

The officers defended their actions, explaining not only is it against the law, but also dangerous to try to keep wild animals as pets.

In hindsight, perhaps it was the role of the veterinarian in the beginning to help educate people about the laws; maybe the vet should have encouraged the couple to contact the wildlife officials as soon as they the deer.

Maybe there should be more options available of places to take wild animals found under these circumstances, and better publicity of these options.

Unfortunately, after six years, the situation is not easy to fix and there are no winners. The wild animals have relied on humans too much and may find it difficult to fit into their normal environment. The people have become too emotionally attached to the animals and will grieve the loss of their pets. And police and wildlife officers must make tough choices and enforce the laws, even though the situation is controversial: They will be criticized by many people as being too heavy-handed with what must be done.

There will be no happy ending to this story.

1 comment:

Steve Davis said...

This is one of the most glaring examples i have seen in a while of overzealous state officials. I agree that wild animals shouldn't be kept as pets but this is a situation where a little common sense should be used.
The deer would have most likely been euthanised had they taken it to authorities in the first place. I'm no animal nut but this is just stupidity that will lead to further distrust of law enforcement.

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