That an Elgin woman gets to retain ownership of some her animals while awaiting trial on cruelty and neglect charges -- even though Kane County has custody of the animals -- has enraged veterinarians and other volunteers caring for them.
So they are publicizing the animals' conditions, in the hopes the owner never gets the animals back.
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"I will fight as long as I have to fight for these animals," said Laura Van Der Snick of St. Charles, one of the volunteers.
"This is the most god-awful thing I have ever seen in my life," veterinarian Nicole Wessel said Monday, while checking on horses and goats at one farm, which is housing 23 horses, 19 goats, two alpacas, two llamas and three miniature donkeys.
Van Der Snick is especially worried that photographs presented at a forfeiture hearing last week didn't adequately show the animals' conditions. And a defense witness veterinarian's testimony -- saying that when he saw the horses and goats in late February, they were not starving and appeared to be in good condition -- makes her and other volunteers livid.
Stacy Fiebelkorn was charged early this month with animal cruelty and failure to provide adequate care, after Kane County Animal Control workers found dead animals on properties she rented in Maple Park and Hampshire. Officials received permission March 4 from the state veterinarian to seize 28 horses, three donkeys, 19 rabbits, 20 poultry, 19 goats, two alpacas and two llamas.
Fiebelkorn has repeatedly declined comment or has been unavailable.
On Friday, a Kane County judge ordered Fiebelkorn to forfeit a llama and an alpaca. She had already voluntarily relinquished most of her goats, all of her poultry and rabbits, a llama and an alpaca.
But Associate Judge Elizabeth Flood also ruled that inadequate proof of cruelty had been supplied to merit permanently taking the horses, donkeys, and two goats.
In Illinois, animals can be permanently removed from defendants even if their criminal case has not been resolved.
Since March 11, many of the animals have been treated for lice and mites, and worm infestations in their bellies, said Wessel, who specializes in horse care.
Horses' hooves were trimmed. One 1-year-old's hooves were so overgrown, Wessel said she believes they were never trimmed. The rear ones curled upward, forcing the horse to walk on the back of his hoofs, which led to leg damage. Wessel said it is unlikely he will ever be able to work, or bear a rider.
That same horse also required an intravenous transfusion of glucose-laden fluid when he arrived, because of malnourishment. He wears a pony-sized blanket, and it is too big on him.
Another horse, a teenage miniature called Old Man, is about 150 pounds underweight, according to Wessel. He should weigh about 500 pounds.
Several horses had bedsores, she said, from lying on bony hips. One miniature horse lost the tip of an ear to frostbite.
An alpaca and the two llamas are maintaining their weight, but not gaining. They don't have enough microbes in their stomachs to help digest their basic food, grass hay.