BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — Animal activists are protesting a Belvidere dog park after a prior animal cruelty conviction of the former owner came to light.
Last week, Stacy Fiebelkorn left her co-ownership position of K9 Splashtastic, 702 W. Locust Street, after her 2014 Kane County conviction became widely shared on Facebook.
Her former business partner, Justin McMillan, who took over the ownership, says he’s fighting a tide of negative criticism for his new business.
“I’m one person fighting a whole army,” he said. “I’m struggling here. I’m struggling at home because of this, but I’m not going to back down.”
Despite Fiebelkorn leaving the dog park, the activists believe she is still part of the business. McMillan says that’s because her name is still on the business documents.
“There’s no involvement with her. Yes, she is still on everything, but it’s a process [to get that transferred.] It’s not like you can do it overnight,” he said.
Animal rights activist Barb Otts created a Facebook group, Animal Defenders, which has planned a protest against the businesses.
“I would really need to know that she’s not involved…and I don’t think we will ever really know that she isn’t a part of it,” Ott said.
Ott said the protest is “to let the community know what, where we stand and stuff, so they know who they’re supporting or not supporting.”
McMillan isn’t the only one impacted by the controversy. Dog trainer Shelbee Butterfield says she got caught in the crossfire after using the location for her own dog training classes. She says she has since left.
“Even with the best intentions, you get wrapped up with someone who’s a very good liar,” Butterfield said.
Butterfield acknowledged she feels bad for McMillan.
“He cares a lot. I think that he’s taking this very personally and taking it as an attack on him, instead of really realizing it’s about what she (Fiebelkorn) did,” she said.
McMillan is pleading with the public to give him a chance.
“Instead of pushing these rumors out there, why can’t you reach out to me and say, ‘hey, what is your story?” he asks.
McMillan says no dog is left alone at the facility without their owner present, and he’s hopeful that people will eventually enjoy the park.