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Petting zoo owner asks court to let ponies be rented

Published: Monday, March 31, 2014 11:33 p.m. CST • Updated: Thursday, April 17, 2014 2:57 p.m. CST

ST. CHARLES – A petting zoo owner charged with animal cruelty and neglect has filed court papers asking if six or seven of the impounded ponies can be rented to Donley's Wild West Town in Union.

Elgin resident Stacy Fiebelkorn, whose 94 animals were impounded last month, states in court papers that in 2012 and 2013 – from May through fall – she leased seven ponies to the small amusement park to provide pony rides.

While there, the animals are fed, housed and receive veterinary care, relieving Kane County Animal Control of the expenses associated with caring for the animals, the filing states.

But Nicole Wessel, a veterinarian who has been caring for many of the impounded animals, said the ponies have not recovered from starvation enough to give rides at an amusement park.

"They are not capable, because they are way too thin and don't have energy because of the malnutrition – let alone to give pony rides," Wessel said.  "We have months of weight to put on them – a good three months to get them into a condition where [Donley] would be able to use them."

Wessel said the horses' body condition scores still were at 1 and 2, while normal is a body condition score of 4 or 5.

"Their guts were so unhealthy with worm infestation they were not able to absorb nutrients," Wessel said. "We had to fix that before we can start packing on the weight. They are doing better, [but] they are nowhere near ready for this. They are not even eating grain yet."

Fiebelkorn voluntarily gave up rabbits, poultry and all but two goats. The court forfeited the alpacas and llamas, and she is fighting to have the remaining 31 animals – mostly horses, ponies, minihorses and two goats – returned to her.

A judge ruled last week that Fiebelkorn had to post $30,000 in security by Thursday to pay for the cost of veterinary care, food and shelter for the impounded animals, many of which were sick and starving, officials said. If she does not post the security, she would forfeit the animals, officials said.

Randy Donley of Donley's Wild West Town said Fiebelkorn's ponies "were always the best quality" and – despite the current charges against her – would like to lease the ponies if possible.

"I'm in absolute disbelief about the charges against her," Donley said. "The only thing I know is what I've read. I'm always wanting to believe innocent until proven guilty."

Donley said his first instinct was not to associate his company with Fiebelkorn, but recognized that in the past two years, her ponies were in great shape.

"If we can be of any help financially, as opposed to it costing her money, the ponies could be out making her money and helping the situation," Donley said. "I'm not worried about some negative publicity."

Kane County Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood denied Fiebelkorn's attorney's request to allow Fiebelkorn to post a portion of the security and allow some animals to be  returned to her care and custody.

Flood noted state law does not allow for partial payments on security to care for impounded animals but ruled that Fiebelkorn's lawyer could file court papers asking for some animals to be released based on what cash she could put up.

The next court date for the animal cruelty and neglect charges, both misdemeanors, is April 17. 

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