By People Staff
October 18, 2004 12:00 PM

To Alan Bartley, Spot was a gentle pet. To the state of Virginia, ? though, the 217-lb. deer was a potential health menace. Tipped off that Bartley was harboring the buck on his father’s Shenandoah Valley horse farm, state authorities came to corral him. As Bartley’s father, Dale, watched, they shot the deer with tranquilizers, threw him in their pickup—and later administered a lethal injection. “This,” Bartley says, “was like shooting a dog on the front porch.”

Spot’s Sept. 14 killing—done because of state laws meant to prevent an outbreak of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD), a contagious neurological disorder that afflicts deer—infuriated animal lovers, even deer hunters, in Virginia. “I think it’s totally wrong,” says Earl Hanna, a local storeowner. “They should have given the man a permit if the deer was well cared for. Some compassion should have been shown.”

The saga of Spot began in 2000, when Bartley, a farmhand, saved a fawn that leaped into his arms to get away from a pack of dogs at a work site. “I wasn’t going to let the dogs eat this little fellow,” he says. Named Spot, the fawn sat on the sofa and watched nature shows with Bartley.

Neighborhood kids came to pet Spot. “He was friendly and nice,” says Sara Moore, 9. “You could feed him cheese, and he’d lick you and stuff.” “But only Kraft American Singles,” adds Bartley, 51. “You couldn’t fool him.”

You can’t fool with nature either, say state game authorities. “I’m the one who killed the deer,” says Dave Kocka, a state wildlife biologist, who told Bartley, “This is not your deer. This deer belonged to the Commonwealth of Virginia.” State law requires all deer held illegally in captivity to be euthanized. Even People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals agrees that killing the deer was the right decision. “Prevention is better than a cure,” says PETA biologist Stephanie Boyles. “The last thing he should have done is take the animal into his home.”

That’s little solace to Bartley, who hopes to get the state law changed to save future Spots. “Hundreds of people have loved this deer,” says Bartley. “He was my buddy.”