BELVIDERE, Ill. (WTVO) — A celebration for the opening of a new Belvidere indoor dog park has been marred after court records resurfaced showing animal cruelty charges against one of the owners.
In 2014, Stacy Fiebelkorn was arrested in Kane County for criminal neglect and cruelty to animals.
Kane County Undersheriff Patrick Gengler was called to her property at that time, finding more than 90 animals, including chickens and horses, starving or dead on two farms, one near Maple Park and the other at a Hampshire petting zoo, Mini Zoo Crew.
“We got there, we realized this was something that doesn’t happen all the time,” Gengler said. “It kind of looked like a hoarding situation, with the animals needing care.”
Veterinarian Nicky Wessel concluded that one of the animals, a miniature horse, had died of starvation.
“It was the worst case of neglect, so that was really hard for all of us,” Wessel said. “We had horses that could barely walk because their feet we’re too long, we had emaciated horses because they didn’t have enough food.”
Fiebelkorn was convicted of animal cruelty, a Class A Misdemeanor, one year later. She served jail time and probation, and then moved to Belvidere.
There, she planned on opening K9 Splashtastic, 702 W. Locust Street, which was set to open on Saturday.
When animal rescue volunteer Sarah Yakle heard the news about the grand opening, she said it was shocking. She had been on Fiebelkorn’s property when the animals were removed in 2014.
“I was, like, are you kidding me right now?” Yakle said. “All of us, that were at that rescue and helped those animals, are appalled. I remember stepping on mounds of poop that was on top of carcasses.”
“To this day, I remember looking into the water bowl,” Gengler remembers. “The water bowl was frozen, but you could see where the birds had tried to peck at the ice to get to the water.”
With Fiebelkorn’s court documents shared on Facebook, local animal rescue businesses who were once listed on the Grand Opening flyer for K9 Splashtastic, say they’ve backed out of the event.
Fiebelkorn responded to the controversy by saying, “I know I have made mistakes in my past. At one point in time, I got in over my head and things got out of my control. I am sorry and truly regret that I let it get to that point.”
“It just really looked like it got away,” Gengler said. “It looked like she probably had a [good] intention. It was a petting zoo-type thing and it just overwhelmed her. Too many animals, too much going on.”
Fiebelkorn said she’s grown and learned from her mistakes in the intervening 7 years, but due to the controversy of her involvement with K9 Splashtastic, she said she is stepping away from the business and giving her partner full ownership.
“I believe in second chances, but some things you just can’t recover from,” said Wessel.