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Fate Of Hampshire Petting Zoo Animals Rests With Court

HAMPSHIRE, Ill. (STMW) -- The owner of a petting zoo in northwest suburban Hampshire who has been charged with criminal neglect may find out next Wednesday whether she will get back 93 animals, ranging from chickens to horses, that Kane County Animal Control officials seized from the property last week.

But she also may have to come up with more than $36,000 just to fight for that outcome.

Stacy Fiebelkorn, 34, of Elgin was charged with cruelty to animals and neglect of an owner's duties after county officials reportedly found numerous animals starving, thirsty, dirty and/or dead on two farms where she rents space — one near Maple Park and the other (where most of the animals were found) at the home base of the Mini Zoo Crew.

On Tuesday, some 100 animal lovers answering a plea for help from county officials came to the Hampshire site and helped evacuate 94 surviving animals from there. Robert Sauceda, acting administrator of the animal control department, said one of those — a miniature horse — has since been euthanized and the other 93 are being kept elsewhere in the county.

After Fiebelkorn's arrest, the Kane County State's Attorney's Office filed a "forfeiture motion" in the 16th Circuit Court asking the court to take away the animals' ownership from her. A hearing on that request was held before Judge Elizabeth Flood in Kane County Branch Court in St. Charles Thursday afternoon.

Assistant State's Attorney Danielle Curtiss told the judge she was ready to argue the case. But Fiebelkorn's attorney, Jamie Wombacher, told the judge she needed more time to prepare for the case. Flood said both sides should come back at 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Curtiss also argued that under state animal control law, if Fiebelkorn wants to continue fighting for the animals, she should be required to post $36,786 in "surety." That is the estimated cost to the county of providing food, shelter and veterinary care for one month.

The judge also postponed deciding on the financial request until Wednesday.

After the hearing, Fiebelkorn and about a half-dozen friends and family members conferred with Wombacher for a long time, then told a group of reporters waiting outside that they had no comment.

Wombacher told reporters that her client is not yet sure whether she will fight the ownership forfeiture. "We just got a 3-inch pile of papers" from the court and are trying to digest them, she said.

Sauceda told reporters that "if the animals are forfeited (from Fiebelkorn), they will be adopted and rescued." He said numerous people have contacted the animal control office offering to adopt some of the neglected animals.

Sauceda said a veterinarian concluded that one miniature horse found at the Hampshire site was so ill with a mouth infection that the horse has been euthanized.

Sauceda also said that a necropsy, or animal autopsy, has been performed on a 3- to 4-year-old miniature horse found dead at the Hampshire site. He said the veterinarian concluded that animal had died of starvation.

A necropsy also was performed on a horse found dead at the Maple Park site. Sauceda said the veterinarian who did this found green material — probably food — in that horse's stomach but has not yet concluded what killed the animal.

According to court documents filed by the animal control department, the removed animals included 12 ponies, 14 miniature horses, three miniature donkeys, two alpacas, two llamas, 19 rabbits, 19 goats, 13 ducks, two turkeys, five chickens and three dogs.

Sauceda reported that most were severely undernourished. For example, he described 14 goats found in one pen together as "very thin to the point of being skeletal." Dead animals were left in pens alongside live ones, several animals had various illnesses, animal waste went uncleaned, and water troughs in some locations were either empty or frozen over.

The animals found dead, according to the court documents, included two miniature horses and one horse fetus, four goats, a donkey, a burro and 10 birds.

Sauceda said that as a result of the new discoveries and a history of complaints, on March 6 the U.S. Department of Agriculture revoked the Mini Zoo Crew's license to operate.

(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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