Baby, a 5-year-old doe, was once wild, meaning it's illegal in Ohio to keep her as a pet

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VERMILION -- A Vermilion couple known for their love of animals is now fighting to keep one alive: their rescued pet deer.

Baby, a 5-year-old doe, was once wild, meaning it's illegal in Ohio to keep her as a pet. Her owner, Deborah Parker, is a known animal savior at her St. Francis Animal Sanctuary in Vermilion.

"She's very innocent. She's only known love and caring her whole life," said Parker.

Five years ago a neighbor called Parker and her husband when the deer was left abandoned and at risk of coyotes.

"She was still wet from being born when I got her, so I'm the only mother she's ever known," said Parker.

They brought her in, raising her first on bottles of goat's milk and progressing to her current diet.

"Her apple pie from McDonald's. ... She eats that every day," said Parker.

"It just seemed so normal to both of us to do what we did for the deer," said her husband, Woody Garcia.

They never looked back, until this week when two Erie County animal control officers came by on a tip.

"They wanted to confiscate her. They said if I gave her to them now, and they would euthanize her, that I wouldn't be charged," said Parker.

Parker says the tip must have come from a friend, because only a small number of people had met Baby.

"It has to be somebody filled with hate to know that this innocent soul was going to be euthanized," she said. "I can't let that happen."

Captive-born deer, like Canal Fulton's famous Dillie the Deer, who has her own bedroom, can be legally permitted through the Ohio Department of Agriculture.

But it's illegal to remove animals from the wild and keep them as pets in Ohio, and releasing her now is not an option, in the state's eyes or Parker's.

"We would never turn her loose. She wouldn't make it out in the wild," said Parker. "We're fighting to keep her."

They've hired an attorney who's helped save other animals facing the same fate. Supporters of Parker have created a petition on Change.org to urge Gov. John Kasich to save the animal. You can find it HERE.

Channel 3 reached out to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. A spokesperson said this case will be referred to local prosecutors before any action is taken.

"ODNR advises anyone that locates an injured or abandoned animal to leave it alone or notify ODNR Division of Wildlife. Most times the animals are not abandoned but simply waiting on their mother to return," Matt Eiselstein said in a written statement.

"Tame deer could also pose a threat of disease transmission to the wild deer herd, humans and pets if released into the wild," he said.

"If you can have people who can keep lions, tigers and bears ... I see very little reasoning behind not being able to keep a deer," said Garcia.

Under Ohio's Dangerous Wild Animals Act, the state can seize wild animals kept without a permit, but shelter for deer, in particular, is limited.

Ohio outlawed rehabilitation of deer in 2009 to help prevent a spread of chronic wasting disease, or CWD, which was found in other nearby states.

The disease is dangerous for the herd, much like mad cow disease. But in 12 years of testing, ODNR has found no evidence of CWD in Ohio, including 2014 results released this week.

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