Hebron resident Pamela Hess said she always wondered what happened to the mini-donkeys she gave to The Mini Zoo Crew in November 2012.
Hess was selling her house and needed a new home for the donkeys, Rachel, Dolly and a 6-month-old male named Buttons. Shortly after she gave the animals away to the traveling petting zoo based in Hampshire Township, the potential buyer for her house backed out, and she ended up staying, Hess said.
The Mini Zoo Crew owner and operator Stacy Fiebelkorn told her in an email in July that Buttons had died, possibly of a rupture or brain hemorrhage, but the other two were doing well.
Fiebelkorn, 34, of Elgin, was charged Wednesday with one count of a violation of an owner’s duty to provide adequate food, shelter and water and vet care to prevent suffering and one count of cruelty to animals, both misdemeanors.
This week, Hess said she saw one of her mini-donkeys, Dolly, in a news photo of animals being cared for by the Kane County Animal Control after they were impounded from Fiebelkorn.
“I’m very upset with this,” Hess said. “She always reassured me they were fine.”
Nine animals and a horse fetus were found dead and 94 others – including rabbits, donkeys, goats and chickens – were found ill and without enough food and their water was frozen, officials said. A dead mare and fetus were found at a Campton Township farm and the rest in Hampshire Township.
“I ... was looking to get them a nice home,” Hess said. “She had a petting zoo, and I thought they would get a lot of attention. They were very sweet mini-donkeys.”
Hess said she has left messages with Kane County Animal Control, saying that she would like to take her two surviving mini-donkeys back, if possible.
Fiebelkorn did not return a voice mail message seeking comment, nor did she respond to a reporter’s business card left at her home in Elgin. She was released after posting $150 bail. No court date has been set yet.
This was not the first time Fiebelkorn was cited in connection with her animals. Kane County Animal Control cited her July 9, 2008, on local ordinance violations, court records show. Three citations were for not having dogs vaccinated for rabies and 25 others were for violating an owner’s duty to animals. The violations occurred at a property on the 41W000 block of McDonald Road in Plato Township.
The citations were not specific as to what was wrong, but list types of animals involved, such as “paint horse,” “large black goat with white nose,” “young burro,” “old burro,” “tan pony” and “black pig.”
Several cases did not show what animal was involved other than names, such as “Hercules,” “Lily” and “Sassy.”
According to the court records, Fiebelkorn did not enter a plea. She was not fined, but each case was stricken with leave to reinstate.
An attorney who specializes in animal abuse cases praised Kane County sheriff’s deputies and animal control for how they handled the petting zoo animals this week.
Cherie Travis, who works for the Cook County sheriff, did training last May for Kane County deputies and animal control employees so they would know what to do in an animal abuse case.
“I am delighted that the Kane County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control worked so well in handling this case so that it resulted in a good outcome for a majority of the animals,” Travis said. “I give all the credit to Sheriff Pat Perez for his leadership and his staff that took leadership action on this.”
The training stemmed from a case in 2012 in which a woman in Burlington Township, Angela Beers, relinquished 13 horses and was cited in a humane care violation, Travis said.
“We saw that it was a situation we don’t deal with on a frequent basis,” Perez said. “We needed to be trained on [it] and have a starting point and some knowledge. ... It was an unfortunate situation, but it went seamlessly because of the training we all received.”
Travis said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart championed a house bill that amended the Illinois Police Training Act to include law enforcement training in animal crimes. House Bill 3388 went into effect Jan. 1 this year, she said.
“This is cutting-edge legislation,” Travis said. “It will be part of the curriculum in a few years for all officers in illinois.”
After the incident in Kane County, Beers later was charged in Kendall County in another complaint involving two horses. Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis said Beers pleaded guilty on one count of failure of a owners’ duty, given a year of supervision and ordered to make restitution of $5,299 to the Hooved Animal Humane Society for the horses given to its care.
“She had to surrender animals she had and she is prohibited from owning or possessing new horses during the supervision time frame,” Weis said. “She has to complete a psychological evaluation and complete any treatment or counseling.”