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Petting zoo owner gives up some animals, fights to keep others

ST. CHARLES – A petting zoo owner whose animals were impounded agreed to give some of them up, but a forfeiture hearing proceeded on the remaining animals Wednesday at Kane County Branch Court.

The hearing was continued and will be back in court today.

Elgin resident Stacy Fiebelkorn was charged with cruelty to animals and a violation of an animal owner’s duty to provide food and care, both misdemeanors. The charges were in connection with a traveling petting zoo she owns in which 11 animals and a horse fetus were found dead and 94 were found in need of food, water and medical attention, officials said.

One horse had since been euthanized, bringing the surviving animals to 93. Fiebelkorn offered to give up all the rabbits, chickens, ducks and turkeys, and all but two goats and assorted horses and donkeys and other animals.

Kane County Animal Control Administrator Robert Sauceda, Kane County Sheriff’s Deputy Susan Deuchler and equine veterinarian Kati Lukas testified about the condition of the animals. Animals in her traveling petting zoo were kept at a site on Beith Road near Maple Park and at a site on Route 20 in Hampshire Township.

Under questioning by Assistant State’s Attorneys Danielle Curtiss and Kelley Flinn, Sauceda, Deuchler and Lukas painted a grisly scene of dead animals, and others so sick they could not eat. They said there was no food, and the only water available was frozen solid.

They described feces everywhere – overflowing from cages where the rabbits were kept, inches deep in the goat pens, poultry pens, in the horse and donkey stalls.

Lukas testified that a round bale of hay was moldy and unhealthy for the animals to eat.

Lukas said she examined 21 horses and testified that all were underfed and undernourished, many so thin, she could see their ribs. Many suffered with coughs, running noses and eyes, and one horse had an open sore leaking pus, she said.

Lukas testified to examining a horse she thought was pregnant because of a large belly – only to find it was a male.

She said she suspected the animal had parasites. Lukas also testified that all the hooved animals’ hooves were overgrown and in need of being trimmed by a farrier.

Fiebelkorn’s attorney Jamie Wombacher elicited testimony that some of the distressed animals were owned by another renter who was not similarly charged. Sauceda said that owner was helpful and began cleaning out her animals’ pens, so he did not cite her.

Wombacher filed court papers asking Kane County Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood to issue a gag order to stop county officials from releasing comments about the case outside of court. Wombacher listed 36 reports from 10 media outlets reporting comments that could jeopardize Fiebelkorn’s right to a fair trial.

Although Flood did not act on the request, county officials said they could not comment about the case and referred all questions to a public information officer.

Flood set April 17 for a hearing on the matter. 

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