Judge orders Snowball's return

Snowball the deer rests last month on the farm of Jim Filipetti and Francesca Mantei in Molalla. A judge has told the state of Oregon to give back the deer it seized from a family that raised her. <i>Associated Press file photo</i>

A judge has told the state of Oregon to give back a deer it seized from a family that raised her.

The doe in dispute, Snowball, was seized in a criminal prosecution, Judge Eve Miller said Thursday, but no charges were filed.

So, she ruled, the state no longer needs the evidence.

Miller's decision favored Jim Filipetti and Francesca Mantei, who raised Snowball for six years at their Molalla home.

Filipetti rescued Snowball from the side of a road and spent thousands of dollars on veterinary bills to correct her leg deformities.

But Oregon law prohibits holding wild animals in captivity without a permit.

The state seized Snowball's offspring, Bucky, born in captivity, and released him into the wild. It planned to put Snowball at a Molalla elk farm.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife could ask for a stay while it appeals, but it didn't say what its next move would be.

"We're not going to have anything to say about that until we see the paper and talk to our attorneys," said Meg Kenagy, a department spokeswoman.

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