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October 3, 2013

Indiana studying ruling throwing out deer farm ban

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Department of Natural Resources is studying a southern Indiana judge's ruling throwing out the state's ban on enclosed deer hunting farms, a spokesman said Wednesday.

Harrison Circuit Judge John Evans ruled the Indiana Department of Natural Resources didn't have the authority to ban the deer farms when its former director, Kyle Hupfer, issued an emergency order doing so in 2005, WIBC-FM and The Indianapolis Star reported.

Evans' ruling followed a summary judgment in a separate case in Owen County last year that supported the DNR ban, spokesman Phil Bloom said.

"There have now been two court cases in this matter with different conclusions by two judges," Bloom said. "The DNR is obviously disappointed in the Harrison County judge's decision and currently is in process of evaluating that ruling."

In the latest ruling, Evans issued a permanent injunction this week prohibiting enforcement of the DNR order. A preliminary injunction had barred it while the case was pending.

Rodney Bruce, owner of the Whitetail Bluff deer farm near Corydon and one of the operators who sued the DNR, said the ruling "is like taking the handcuffs off" because it will allow him to compete with similar operations in other states.

Bruce said he believed the decision would allow the industry to grow as it has in many other states.

"There were only four (deer farms) active in the state until yesterday," Bruce said Wednesday. "With this ruling, others can open now."

Opponents label the preserves "canned hunting" and contend it's cruel to animals, giving hunters a free shot at deer that don't have room to roam and may be mistreated. Bruce said he hopes to work with the DNR in crafting regulations that would ensure appropriate standards.

Bruce and other deer farmers complain 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 operate, but the proposals met firm opposition from state Senate President Pro Tem David Long, R-Fort Wayne, and never got a Senate hearing.

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