Michigan Family’s Pet Deer Allowed to Stay at Home


When one family found a pregnant doe dying by the side of the road after being stuck by a car, they sought to do what they could to save the animal. The doe managed to give birth to two fawns before succumbing to her injuries. The family asked police what they could do to save them. They were told that they could try to save them, but the fawns would probably not make it past 15 minutes. One of the newborns died, the other lived and was taken inside the family’s home, where gentle care insured that it survived. The fawn was named Lily.

This miraculous event happened five years ago and since then Lily has resided in a Genesee County, Michigan home where she had free reign over the backyard. Her owners, who wish to remain anonymous, said the animal was “like their child” and would often play with their boys and pets. The domesticated deer was allowed inside the house and even occasionally slept on the couch. The family’s neighbors did not mind the strange pet either, and for a long time that was exactly what Lily was–an exotic but seemingly harmless pet. Then the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) discovered the animal and voiced concerns over the doe.

In Michigan, keeping a deer as a pet is illegal without a permit. The DNR made a statement that wildlife should remain in the wild and that the keeping of a deer at home could be dangerous. Deer can also carry a number of diseases or parasites that are detrimental to pets and humans. In addition, fawns that are raised without a mother lack the necessary survival skills to be released back into the wild.

The DNR moved to confiscate the deer but were met by a large show of support on the family’s behalf. Fans of Lily began setting up internet petition boards and a “Save Lily the Deer” Facebook page, all asking the DNR to reverse their position and let the deer stay. Lily’s caretakers were not about to hand over their pet so easily either, the family hired attorney Valdemar Washington shortly after the story began reaching local news.

However, the fact remains that Lily’s caretakers were breaking the law in keeping her. Since the deer was incapable of surviving in the wild, the DNR had to decide between euthanasia or keeping her in captivity elsewhere. The department reached a deal with the Detroit Zoo to keep the animal there, but the family objected.

“This is an extraordinary situation in which, in violation of Michigan law, a wild animal was, unfortunately, kept for a very long period of time in a home environment,” DNR Director Keith Creagh told WNEM.

After a short legal battle, an agreement was brokered between the DNR and Lily’s owners to let the deer stay with the family. While Washington and his clients are overjoyed at the outcome, the agreement comes with several stipulations. In essence, the Genesee County home must be registered as a private wildlife facility with strict guidelines for the deer’s health and well-being. The family must also admit that it was illegal to keep the deer as a pet.

The DNR released the following statement:

The Department of Natural Resources today announced that it has reached an agreement with the Genesee County family that has illegally housed a deer for approximately five years. Due to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this situation, the agreement requires that in order for the deer to remain in the home, the home must be registered as a privately owned cervidae (deer/elk) facility. As operators of the facility, the family must adhere to the requirements of the Privately Owned Cervidae (POC) Producers Marketing Act (Act 190 of 2000).

Under this agreement, the home will be issued a POC exhibition class registration, which is a renewable permit valid for three years, and the family will be responsible to:

  • Have the deer tested for bovine tuberculosis by an accredited, state-approved veterinarian;
  • Pay the $450 registration and $250 application fee;
  • Ensure the facility is surrounded by a suitable fence;
  • Provide an annual report on the deer’s health;
  • Honor a lifetime quarantine, meaning they will never house additional deer nor will they take this deer off-site at any time; and
  • Admit their knowledge of Michigan law that states possessing wildlife is illegal.

Lily’s caretakers also released the following statement:

We are extremely grateful to all who helped in their support of Lilly. As you can imagine the last several weeks have been an emotional roller coaster for us and now that the Agreement has been signed we would like to recapture the regular routine of our lives. We will update the public about Lilly at www.lillythedeer.com.

You can view a video of Lily below:

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