Oh Deer! Couple Fights to Keep Fawn as Pet

By Aditi Mukherji, JD on June 10, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Keeping a pet deer is a common childhood fantasy, and apparently, not everyone outgrows that dream. A couple in Michigan is filing a lawsuit to keep their real-life Bambi, reports Business Insider.

No, seriously, it really is like "Bambi."


Once upon a time, a family in Genesee County, Michigan, adopted a deer. This was five years ago, after her mother was killed by a car. (OK, so the deer here is a female and the mom in "Bambi" was hunted, but close enough.)

Instead of being raised by rabbits, this Bambi was raised by humans. After the anonymous couple took the baby fawn into their home, and nursed her back to health, they kept her and named her Lilly, Michigan's WNEM-TV reports.

Lilly has been a part of the family ever since, sleeping on a futon, playing in the backyard, and napping with the couple's three cats and two dogs.

One day, an evil villain neighbor's guest saw the doe in the backyard, and reported her to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) -- the agency that is now threatening to take Lilly away.

The End?

Even though the end of unlikely inter-species friendships is one of the saddest things ever, the neighbor had the law right.

In Michigan, the keeping deer in captivity requires a permit. Even more problematic for the couple here, the permit only works for animals born and reared in captivity; it doesn't allow you to keep an animal taken from the wild. In fact, only licensed wildlife rehabilitators can possess injured or orphaned animals from the wild.

As it turns out, adopting Bambi might not be so magical.

Because captive deer are often kept in confined and dense areas, the risk of disease transmission grows exponentially, according to the DNR. Wild animals held in captivity often suffer higher stress brought about by a reduction in immunity from nutritional deficiencies or the stress of captivity. There is also a significant risk of transmission of diseases from captive deer to free-range wildlife.

In fact, don't bother adopting Rudolph or Bullwinkle because you also can't keep moose, elk or caribou (reindeer) as pets without a permit either. You can also forget about Thumper. Adopting wild rabbits isn't allowed at all.

The consequences for breaking the law and keeping an illegal pet can be pretty depressing.

In this case, the DNR says Lilly can be rehabilitated back into the wild, or put down for good. For a domesticated deer who has only known life in a human home, neither seems to be a great option.

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