The state is challenging a southern Indiana judge's decision to throw out its ban on enclosed deer hunting farms and limit its authority to police private deer-hunting preserves.
Attorney General Greg Zoeller's office announced Tuesday that it would appeal the ruling that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources overstepped its authority by issuing an emergency order banning deer-hunting farms in 2005, The Indianapolis Star reported (http://indy.st/GX2Bp6 ).
The decision came in a lawsuit filed by Corydon-area preserve owner Rodney Bruce in 2005. The DNR tried to shut down his operation and the 11 other high-fence hunting preserves then operating in the state.
Bruce and other deer farmers complained that the DNR initially gave them approval to operate before reversing itself and issuing a regulation banning the preserves. The Indiana House twice passed bills to allow the preserves to operate, but the proposals met firm opposition from state Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and never received a Senate hearing.
Harrison County Circuit Court Judge John Evans sided with Bruce earlier this month and found that deer at facilities such as Bruce's "are privately owned and not the property of the people of the state of Indiana." As such, he said, they weren't subject to the DNR's oversight.
Bruce said the ruling would allow more deer farms to open in the state.
Opponents label the preserves "canned hunting" and contend they are cruel to animals, giving hunters a free shot at deer that don't have room to roam and may be mistreated. Animal rights activists and hunting groups say Evans' ruling challenges the notion that wildlife is owned by the public and that individuals can possess and kill the animals only in special, tightly regulated circumstances.
Bruce has said he hopes to work with the DNR to craft regulations that would ensure appropriate standards.
The ruling contradicts a summary judgment in a separate case in Owen County last year that supported the DNR ban.
Information from: The Indianapolis Star, http://www.indystar.com