As most of you know, State Supreme Court Judge Don Cerio dismissed my Article 78 petition to the court on November 8th. At first, I didn’t want to talk about it, so deep was my disappointment. The Article 78 was filed at the end of May, asking for a reversal of the NYSDEC Special License Unit’s denial of my application for a License to Possess (LCPEE), on the grounds that the denial was arbitrary and capricious. I had applied for the LCPEE so that I could save Deirdre & Lily (two orphaned does I had raised and/or rehabilitated under my wildlife rehabilitator’s license) from certain death. The details of their stories have been expounded elsewhere, so I won’t bother to reiterate.
But there are some things I finally want to talk about. I am writing today because I feel the need to explain that this all began because I had to save Lily (in particular) from an order I thought was cruel and inhumane. I was only given 12 days between the receipt of denial and the order of execution for Lily (4 of those days being weekends, when no governmental cogs turn). At first, I actually tried to keep the matter within the Department of Environmental Conservation. I sent a letter (return receipt) to the head of the division with further explanation of the situation, thinking certainly these extenuating circumstances weren’t clear enough the first time, and if once they understood the situation with these two special does, all would be well and the LCPEE would be issued. In those remaining days, I received no reply. The letter was received, but there was no response from the DEC at all.
In the meantime, I contacted my regional wildlife manager, hoping to garner some support locally. I asked that someone from my regional office come and have a look at the facilities and make a recommendation to the Special Licenses Unit. Needless to say, my conversation with my regional wildlife manager was less than promising; as I explained the situation, I could feel that there was no desire or willingness to help me at all. In fact, he said, “Well, if Albany denied you, they must have had a good reason.” I asked, “So, are you saying you can’t help me?” He said, “No, I can’t help you.” I think “can’t” was the wrong word to use there; it was more like he WOULDN’T try to help me. Those government jobs have really nice benefits and a great pension, after all, if you can make it to retirement; never mind selling your soul.
I went outside after that phone call and spent some time with Deirdre & Lily, trying to figure out what to do next. I watched Lily navigating her surroundings like she could see. I checked again against all hope to see if maybe she could actually see something, even a little. If she could, I could release her and be done with all of this. Unfortunately, all signs still pointed to her blindness. Still, should she have been euthanized shortly after she came to me, like the denial letter insisted? My heart sank.
I thought back to her indomitable little spirit, surviving after her mother died, coming up to the houses as if asking for help, wandering the road to get someone to notice her. This little wild fawn, 3 months old and having never encountered humans, allowed me to administer B1 injections, B-complex, and treat her with oral Ivermectin for her mite infestation. She slurped quarts of Pedialyte from a dish, and though she would not take a bottle, hungrily ate fawn milk pellets that I had to purchase online from a place in the Midwest. She was determined to live, and after she was feeling better and again seeing humans as a threat, she became just as determined that we weren’t going to touch her! This was a great success, and I was so certain that she would be releasable…but no. She never regained her eyesight.
But even so, the way she adjusted to being blind was nothing short of miraculous. She never ran into the fence, even though every single sighted fawn would crash headlong into the fence the very first time they were placed in the see-through enclosure. She seemed to have a sixth sense about where the obstacles were, adeptly avoiding the elm tree’s huge trunk (and Deirdre) at the last minute even at a full-out run. We kept saying to each other, “Are you SURE she can’t see?” But the tests all showed that she did not respond to either light or motion. She tracked sound and scent, it seemed, those senses heightened by the lack of the other.
While Deirdre may have had a lot to do with her confidence, Lily has always been a fighter. Her will to live was amazing. The odds were stacked against her, but she was determined to make it. Having witnessed that strong spirit for months, it was quite clear to me what I had to do in this situation — for if Lily never gave up, how could I possibly give up on her?
I contacted Senator Valesky and Assembyman Bill McGee, who both gave lip service to helping me, but ended up being no help in the end. Even letters from Assemblyman Jim Tedisco, Minority Whip, did not receive any response from either my representatives or the acting Commissioner of the DEC. Pleas to Ken Lynch, Director of NYSDEC Region 7, went unanswered.
At the final hour, I had to try to stop the order. I could not allow anyone to kill this amazing doe fawn, not after she had been through so much to survive. The only way I could see to put the brakes on any action (because the state was not responding to my request for a hearing within the department) was to ask a State Supreme Court Judge for a temporary restraining order and file an Article 78 against the DEC. So I hired a lawyer and we got a last-minute injunction.
So that’s how we ended up here; that and the Care2 petition, which I had started in the hope of getting maybe 2500 signatures. As you know, the petition went viral and we ended up with well over 200,000 signatures. The governor completely ignored us, and his people LIED to us — but that’s a rant for another day. Suffice to say that I had no idea when this whole thing started what it would become, nor did I foresee just how entrenched and unreasonable the DEC would be. I was just trying to save a blind deer from certain death.
The state tried to subtly confuse the judge (and the media) with all the documentation they presented at the hearing, and they may have succeeded. Some of the language in the court dismissal was confusing and even misleading. For instance, the mention of my wildlife rehabilitation logs from 2014 say I reported a white-tail deer that year that died and another that was blind with “disposition pending.” Of course the latter was Lily, but if someone did not realize that the first white-tail deer mentioned and reported on my 2014 log was a 2-week-old fawn that died that spring in spite of my best efforts (briefly named Olivia), they might be lead to think that I was trying to pass Deirdre off as deceased. That is an outright falsehood, and I can’t say that it’s been subtly insinuated, because it isn’t even that straightforward. Let’s just say that insidiously allowing that misunderstanding serves the DEC in their campaign to discredit me.
So let me set the record straight. I reported Deirdre on my 2010 logs, the year she came to me as a fawn, and marked her disposition “pending.” The next year, I did not report her; that is true, for reasons that have already been stated elsewhere, repeatedly. Yes, that was my error, and I have never denied that. But shouldn’t someone from the DEC have contacted me then about her, when she did not appear on my logs with a disposition the next year? (Yes, Virginia, mistakes were made on both sides.) But I never tried to pass Deirdre off as deceased. And I never tried to hide her.
I should clear up another misunderstanding, as long as I’m on a roll. Lily was still covered to live here under my rehabber’s license at the time that I applied for the LCPEE. However, while waiting for the response from the DEC (who took the entire 45 days allowed), her coverage under my rehabber license lapsed. I didn’t think that was a problem, since the DEC had cashed my check for the application a month before.
Finally, I also want to say that the DEC had other means of reprimanding me for my lapse in paperwork for Deirdre. But they chose to do the thing that was most cruel: they chose to ask me to kill or surrender these two non-releasable does that I raised and nursed back to health and have come to love as much as anyone loves a dog, cat, or horse. They are doing that because they don’t want other rehabbers to step out of line — because if we start to question the status quo, we might demand change. And the rumbling groundswell of change is something the current regime fears more than anything else. Rumbling groundswells tend to topple despots.
I, for one, will continue to be an agent for the very change we need. You see, I came to understand during this crisis that Deirdre & Lily actually became symbols for something larger than us. Their cause — our cause — became a backlash against government overreach into the lives of citizens, a backlash against the taking of our inalienable rights by government agencies that are answerable to no one, and against the politicians who ignore the very citizens who put them in government offices in the first place. These does are also a symbol of our resistance against the collective nightmare of leaders that refuse to recognize the right to life of other sentient beings that share the planet with us. Deirdre & Lily’s plight is just a symptom of a larger illness that is sucking the life out of our culture: the huge soul loss that exists within the Western world, creating a blindness much worse than Lily’s lack of eyesight. Surely all of the injustice we are experiencing just screams out for civil disobedience — for it is only when we take a stand, refusing to allow this blindness of the heart to prevail, that the collective soul loss can even begin to be healed.