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New Bill Would Create Deer Sanctuaries

There’s a bill in the Ohio legislature that would allow for deer sanctuaries to house injured deer that can no longer survive in the wild. As Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles reports, there’s a story behind this bill.

One day, back in 2011, a white tailed deer meandered from the woods into high grasses of a private farm near Mount Vernon. The problem is that farm was being mowed that day and the deer got in the way of the mower. He was badly injured. That’s where Carol Deyo came into the picture. Deyo, a veterinary technician, cleaned and sutured the wounds of the deer, which she called Trooper. But the injured deer couldn’t survive back in the wild so Deyo made some phone calls.

“I tried to find rehab centers and everywhere I called they said they couldn’t take him. They weren’t taking in any white tails. What was I going to do after I saved him? I couldn’t kill him.”

So Deyo made Trooper an area on her farm. He became part of her menagerie of animals.  And shortly thereafter, Deyo took in yet another deer who was found dehydrated and ill, under a car in local parking lot. Deyo named him Patch. That’s when the trouble started. The state found out about the deer living on Deyo’s farm in what basically constituted a deer sanctuary. And that’s a violation of Ohio law. The state took legal action against Deyo, threatening to kill the deer.

“Could you imagine leaving a baby lay there? I mean, there’s no compassion in this whole thing is the worst.”

Deyo fought back in court. A petition was started. 15,000 Ohioans signed it. Eventually, Trooper and Patch were given a pardon. But Deyo wanted the law changed so that people who do what she did can keep the deer on their properties. That’s where Republican State Representative Margaret Ruhl of Mt. Vernon comes into the story. She’s sponsoring the bill known as Trooper’s Law.

“Ultimately we’d like to have wildlife in the wild but you know there are circumstances where a fawn can’t go back out into the wild so the purpose is two-fold. One is to help to get them rehabilitation and make it easier to get a rehabilitation license if someone so desires. And number two is to establish sanctuaries for those that can never go back into the wild.”

Ruhl says the bill would also allow veternarians in Ohio to treat deer…something she says isn’t allowed currently under Ohio law. She says situations like Deyo’s are becoming more common as development encroaches into forested areas of the state.

“I believe that it’s becoming more and more frequent. You are hearing more and more stories of people…And I think there are people out there who have deer that we don’t know of and hopefully this will allow them to become legal and know what they need to do to keep themselves safe because you know, just like any wild animal, they can turn at any point. But this is to help them understand what they need to do to make themselves safe and protect the deer.”

If Ruhl’s bill passes, Deyo won’t be around to see it signed into law. She died back in 2013.  But Trooper is about four years old now. He’s still on that farm in Mount Vernon with Patch. Deyo’s friends have set up a fund to take care of the animals. The area of the farm where they are staying has a very high fence to keep the deer in and to keep others out. That’s something that would be required in sanctuaries if this bill passes. Ruhl says the goal is to prevent a situation like the one Deyo went through before she died from ever happening again.

For more information, read the bill.

Contact Jo Ingles at