An otherwise quiet day in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was interrupted by the shrill sound of police sirens. Thirteen armed law enforcement personnel surrounded a barn on the outskirts of town, prepared to confront a wanted fugitive. Equipped with aerial recon photos, armed agents entered the premises, found their target, and hauled her away.
No, it was not the endgame in a chase for an armed criminal or a drug kingpin or a re-enactment of the final scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. It was the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) raiding an animal shelter. Their target: a harmless baby deer named Giggles. She was ultimately euthanized in accordance with Wisconsin law.
Giggles’s story began when a local family, worrying she had been abandoned by her mother, decided to take her to the Society of St. Francis, a no-kill shelter. Shelter staff noticed when the fawn made noise it sounded like she was laughing, and the name “Giggles” stuck. Unfortunately for Giggles, shelter staff weren’t the only ones to take notice of her—two anonymous callers informed the DNR they had seen a baby deer on the premises. Wisconsin law forbids the unlicensed possession of wildlife under pain of fines and imprisonment.
The DNR sprang into action. A warden ventured to the edge of the property and visually identified the fawn during her regular jaunts about the shelter grounds. The affidavit for a search warrant included aerial surveillance photos of the St. Francis facility. And then the raid was on.
“[There were] nine [DNR] agents and four deputy sheriffs, and they were all armed to the teeth,” employee Ray Schulze told the local WISN 12 news. “It was like a SWAT team.” According to Schulze, he and the other employees were detained while agents bagged Giggles—literally: “I was thinking in my mind they were going to take the deer and take it to a wildlife shelter, and here they come carrying the baby deer over their shoulder. She was in a body bag.”
When pressed about why it was deemed appropriate to waste taxpayer resources surveilling and raiding St. Francis when a simple phone call might have sufficed, department supervisor Jennifer Niemeyer explained, “If a sheriff’s department is going in to do a search warrant on a drug bust, they don’t call them and ask them to voluntarily surrender their marijuana or whatever drug that they have before they show up.”
This is an absurd justification for an absurd tactical decision. Law enforcement personnel have a reasonable expectation that a drug raid could end in violence; analogizing drug dealers to charitable shelter employees is ridiculous.
While euthanizing illegally possessed animals is apparently standard procedure for the DNR, heavily armed raids for harmless animals should not be.
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