Petting zoo owner might have to post cash for care of 2 goats

ST. CHARLES – A hearing is scheduled next week on whether a petting zoo owner charged with animal cruelty should have to post $3,555 for 30 days of care for two goats in the custody of Kane County Animal Control.

In a formal ruling this week, Judith Brawka, chief judge of the 16th Judicial Circuit, declared that all but two goats are forfeited because owner Stacy Fiebelkorn of Elgin failed to post $30,000 as a security to pay for the care of 31 other animals, mostly horses, impounded by Animal Control.

Fiebelkorn was charged with animal cruelty and neglect in connection with 94 sick and starving animals removed from her business, the Mini Zoo Crew, at a farm on Beith Road near Maple Park and at another farm on Route 20 near Hampshire.

Kane County Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood ruled last month the two goats were not subject to forfeiture because they were not considered companion animals.

In court papers filed this week, Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Danielle Curtiss and Kane County Animal Control Administrator Robert Sauceda are challenging that ruling. The filing asks the judge to order Fiebelkorn to post security for the two goats, asserting that they are companion animals under the law.

The filing cites the state statute that allows for security to be posted to pay for the care of impounded “companion animals.” The filing argues the legal definition “includes but is not limited to canines, felines and equines. The goats at issue in this case are companion animals. Thus [the law] applies to the two goats in question and should be subject to the posting of security.”

A hearing on the security request for the two goats is scheduled at 1 p.m. Monday at Kane County Branch Court, according to Brawka’s ruling.

Brawka’s ruling also noted that Fiebelkorn was withdrawing her request to have some ponies released to Donley’s Wild West Town, an amusement park in Union, for children’s pony rides.

Also scheduled for hearing that day is a petition from Fiebelkorn attorney Jamie Wombacher asking the judge to issue a gag order on officials’ comments outside of court. In court papers, Wombacher argued that comments from 36 news stories circulated among 10 news outlets jeopardizes Fiebelkorn’s right to a fair trial. 

In court papers filed this week, Kane County Assistant State’s Attorney Erin Gaeke argued that restricting comments outside court would be a violation of federal and state constitutions’ protection of free speech.

The filing asserts that officials’ comments “are factual and concern the victim animals and are all permitted by the rules regarding trial publicity.”

“None of these statements express belief as to defendant’s guilt,” the filing states, in part. “The public statements cited by defendant and made by any law enforcement entity are purely factual and expressly permitted by relevant statutes.”

Also to be heard the same day is a request by the Kane County Chronicle to have cameras in the courtroom when criminal charges against Fiebelkorn are scheduled for a hearing at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The criminal charges, both misdemeanors, allege that Fiebelkorn starved horses, donkeys, chickens, ducks, rabbits, llamas and alpacas in her care.

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