ST. CHARLES – A judge ruled Thursday that a petting zoo owner charged with animal cruelty had to forfeit her claim to alpacas and llamas, all in a condition which a veterinarian described as so bad as to be "living skeletons."
Stacy Fiebelkorn, of Elgin, already had agreed to give up all the rabbits and poultry from her traveling petting zoo, Mini Zoo Crew, but she fought to keep the rest of them, some 27 horses, two goats, donkeys, llamas and alpacas.
Associate Kane County Judge Elizabeth Flood made her ruling after about five hours in a second day of testimony on a Kane County State's Attorney's effort to have Fiebelkorn forfeit all the animals.
Veterinarian Susan Brown testified that too many animals were crowded together with too few feeding stations. This leads to a condition called "social starvation" in which the stronger animals eat all the food and the others would not get enough or any, she said.
"Most were emaciated," Brown said of the llamas and alpacas. "The worst were the female and baby alpaca, they were like living skeletons."
Flood determined that while veterinarians testified that the other animals were thin, their condition was not the result of animal cruelty, the basis for a forfeiture ruling.
The forfeiture allows the county to find homes for the alpacas and llamas, officials said.
Fiebelkorn still faces a request from the county to provide security to pay for the continuing care and feeding of all the animals it impounded last week.
The animals were removed from a property Fiebelkorn rented in Hampshire to two other farms in Maple Park at undisclosed locations.
Last week, prosecutors asked Fiebelkorn to post $36,786 to cover 30 days of the cost of day-to-day care of 93 animals.
According to state law, once an amount of security is set, the animals' owner has five days in which to post the money or the animals are forfeited, assistant state's attorneys said.
Flood scheduled a hearing on posting security for March 26 at Kane County Branch Court.
Still pending against Fiebelkorn are charges of animal cruelty and a violation of an animal owner's duty to provide food and care, both misdemeanors.
In total, 11 animals and a horse fetus were found dead and 94 in need of food and water, officials said. One had to be put down, reducing the number to 93. The horse and fetus were found on a farm near Maple Park, the rest at the Hampshire Township location, officials said.