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updated: 7/8/2014 1:25 PM

Petting zoo: Yelp review by St. Charles woman was libelous, untrue

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A petting zoo owner believes a St. Charles woman crossed the line when she posted a less than flattering review on the website last year.

DeKalb-based Friendly Farms and its owner, Steven Vidmar, recently filed a libel lawsuit against Erika Gannon-Hughes, arguing she knew her July 14, 2013 review on the consumer review website was untrue and purposefully made to hurt the business's reputation.

"In all honesty, 1 star seems too generous of a rating. I know firsthand that these animals are severely abused," began Gannon-Hughes' review, which has since been removed by Yelp.

"The majority of them have lice, are ridden with parasites, are LONG overdue for a hoof trimming, and are ALL underfed," continued the review, according to the lawsuit. "The owners of this company are nothing but cruel, heartless and shady. They are in it for the $$$ and nothing else. Please do not support this company!"

Paul Krentz, an attorney for Family Farms, said he sent a letter to Gannon-Hughes in the spring asking her to remove the post.

"She ignored it or chose not to respond to it," Krentz said. "What she said, it's not an opinion, I don't believe. It's just not true. That's the problem. It's just unfortunate. Hopefully we can get something worked out."

Reached by phone at Bowen Animal Hospital on Tuesday, Gannon-Hughes, of St. Charles, deferred questions to her attorney, who could not immediately be reached.

The animal hospital is not named in the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, Krentz says the farm has operated for 30 years providing farm animals for petting zoos and pony rides to organizations and private parties.

"We are fully insured and licensed by the USDA. We provide our customers with clean, friendly animals and a professional, friendly staff that looks forward to serving you," according to the farm's website.

The two sides are due in court Sept. 11. Friendly Farms seeks unspecified damages of more than $50,000.

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