Wisconsin wildlife officials defended their decision to remove a fawn from a no-kill shelter and euthanize it, saying state law requires such action to prevent the spread of disease.
The fawn, named Giggles, was brought to the Saint Francis Society shelter near the state line by an Illinois family who believed the animal had lost its mother.
Shelter workers told WISN-TV the fawn had been there about two weeks when armed Department of Natural Resources agents showed up with a search warrant and took the animal. The DNR began investigating after receiving two anonymous calls about the deer.
Wisconsin law prohibits people from taking animals from the wild or keeping a wild animal without a permit.
Shelter employee Ray Schulze said he told DNR agents the fawn was scheduled to go to an animal preserve in Illinois the next day but they took Giggles anyway.
"Then here they come, carrying the baby deer over their shoulder, like a bag of — she was in a body bag," Schulze said. "I said, 'Why did you do that?' He said, 'Well, it's our policy.'"
DNR Warden Supervisor Jennifer Niemeyer told the television station that state law requires animals like the fawn to be euthanized because they could spread disease.
DNR spokesman Bill Cosh told The Associated Press on Friday that the main concern with deer is chronic wasting disease, a fatal illness that affects the nervous system. CWD has been found in 17 states. To help prevent its spread, state and federal laws bar moving deer illegally taken from the wild to rehabilitation facilities in other states without authorization.
"These are always difficult situations for both parties involved, and we are empathetic to the fact of what happened because we know in our heart of hearts, they tried to do the right thing," Niemeyer told the television station.
She said the fawn was not killed at the shelter, but tranquilized and euthanized later.
"I don't care where they would have killed her, it would have been wrong," shelter President Cindy Schultz said.