Case Snapshot
Case ID: 13482
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: goat
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Tuesday, Mar 25, 2008

County: Fulton

Charges: Misdemeanor
Disposition: Dismissed

Person of Interest: Robin Dillenbeck

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

A woman was charged with one count of misdemeanor animal neglect after authorities inspected a goat farm she operates and found more than 40 dead goats and at least 150 in poor condition, officials said.

Robin Dillenbeck, no age available, of Edick Road, Sammonsville, was cited by the Fulton County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday [March 25, 2008] after the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals responded to an anonymous call about the farm on Firebreak Road in the town of Johnstown.

SPCA Director Sharon Hayes was accompanied by Sheriff Thomas J. Lorey, deputies and District Attorney Louise K. Sira. Sira said she is still waiting to learn all the circumstances that led to this situation and said she would reserve comment until after the investigation is completed.

Among the dead goats was a dead sheep, Hayes said.

While Hayes said she is also awaiting more information before making final determinations about Dillenbeck's goat farm and an explanation for the animal deaths, she said there were only four bales of hay and a couple bags of grain on the premises to feed more than 150 animals.

The goats were also infested with lice and parasites, making them unfit to be associated with healthy animals, either at a shelter or another farm, Hayes said. As a result, the animals will be kept at Dillenbeck's farm on the condition she has an appointment with a veterinarian by Friday, when Hayes and Lorey will return for another inspection, Hayes said.

"I think the problem should be contained [at the farm], and we'll start working on it from there," she said. Removing animals in that condition, she said, "is only going to move the problem."

It appears, Hayes said, that Dillenbeck has rented the property for 16 years. Dillenbeck told authorities she had a business selling goats for meat.

During the inspection, Hayes said, garbage bags containing dead goats were observed in pens among living goats. Some goats were bald as a result of lice infestations, she said.

Hayes said Dillenbeck's family members have pledged to assist Dillenbeck in burying the dead animals and returning the surviving animals to health.

Sira said neighbors of the farm expressed concern about contamination of area wells from spring runoff. Sira said the state departments of Health and Environmental Conservation were contacted but did respond.

Case Updates

A 56-year-old woman who lost about 200 farm animals in an upstate New York barn fire blames the disaster on a propane heater she had set up to protect newborn and pregnant sheep and goats from subzero cold.

Robin Dillenbeck, sitting with her mother at their kitchen table Thursday, cried as she described her animals as the center of her life. Friends managed to rescue 10 scorched sheep and goats from the fire Sunday in Johnstown, including a black lamb that Dillenbeck is bottle-feeding.

Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira says Dillenbeck was a "hoarder" caring for more animals than she could handle when she was charged with a misdemeanor in 2008. The charge was dismissed when Dillenbeck agreed to keep fewer animals.

Dillenbeck says the baby animals that died were due to be sold.
Source: - Jan 27, 2011
Update posted on Jan 27, 2011 - 6:00PM 
The woman who owned the animals that perished in a barn fire Sunday thinks a propane heater she'd set up on the frigid night was knocked over by one of her goats, igniting the blaze.

"I had a propane heater to heat my water line [inside the barn]," a tearful Robin Dillenbeck said Monday. "The only thing I can think of is one of the goats tipped it over."

Sir William Johnson Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ken Felthousen Jr. said today officials are continuing to investigate the blaze on County Highway 156 in the town, which burned and collapsed the barn, killing about 190 animals.

Felthousen's company and four other volunteer fire companies battled the fire Sunday night under sub-zero conditions. No people were hurt in the blaze.

He said the county Fire Investigation Team is working to determine the cause. Fulton County Fire Coordinator Allan Polmateer couldn't be reached for comment this morning.

An anguished Dillenbeck said during a brief interview outside her Sammonsville home Monday that she owned and cared for about 200 animals at the barn. She said she was there about 4 p.m. Sunday, about three hours before fire was reported in a 911 call by neighbor Victor Acquilla.

Dillenbeck said that of the 200 animals, only about 10 were saved. They are now being cared for at nearby farms. She said those 10 surviving animals were goats and sheep. She said most of her animals were goats and sheep, although she also had two pigs, two dogs and a llama. She said she was also raising a steer, which may have died in the blaze.

Sue Perry of LaGrange Road in the town of Johnstown said Dillenbeck is a "very kind" and hard-working woman who would do anything to pay for the upkeep of her animals. She said that Dillenbeck, who works as a custodian at Knox Junior High School in Johnstown, also works for her.

"She milks cows at our farm three days a week," Perry said. "There isn't a more caring and loving person when it comes to animals. She loves animals."

Felthousen said this morning he hadn't talked to Dillenbeck about the fire. But other than quelling the fire Sunday night, he said the Sir William Johnson Volunteer Fire Department's involvement in the investigation is "pretty much" over. He didn't think Polmateer had talked to Dillenbeck, either, as authorities are having trouble contacting her.

"I couldn't get a hold of her," Felthousen said.

Dillenbeck, who has an unlisted telephone number, said Monday she hadn't yet talked to authorities.

The fire chief said dead animals still lie under the barn debris, so the chore is not only to find the cause of the fire, but also to remove the carcasses.

Dillenbeck leases the barn and property from Semen and Sofia Demkiw of Queens. Sofia Demkiw said today that she and her husband own multiple properties in Fulton County, including a parcel in Bleecker. She said she and her husband were contacted after the barn fire and later talked to Dillenbeck, who she said is responsible for the property.

"I talked to her. She said she's going to clean it up," Demkiw said.

Demkiw, who called the fire "terrible," said Dillenbeck was a responsible tenant and had a year left on the lease.

"She wanted to take care of the farm," she said.

The farm was investigated by local authorities in March 2008, when at least 40 dead goats were found. Officials at the time said Dillenbeck was cooperative and the dead animals were disposed of. Authorities also found 150 goats alive, but in poor condition.

At the time, Dillenbeck was charged by the Fulton County Sheriff's Department with one count of misdemeanor failure to provide sustenance to an animal under the state Agriculture & Markets Law. That case was handled through Johnstown Town Court and Dillenbeck voluntarily thinned out her herds.
Source: - Jan 25, 2011
Update posted on Jan 27, 2011 - 5:52PM 
It was in a letter faxed to the Fulton County District Attorney last week that brought national attention to a local case of animal neglect. That case involved more than 200 goats at a farm in Johnstown.

"What is clear is that the conditions were terrible. The conditions the goats were in there was clearly evidence of neglect there," said D.A. Louise Sira.

More than 40 dead goats piling up and a 150 living in awful conditions. The owner was charged with one misdemeanor count of animal neglect. The Humane Society said that charge is too light.

"One of the things that caught our attention is that forty animals died and one misdemeanor has been file," said Dale Bartlett with the Humane Society.

Bartlett said his group is trying to send a message with this case. Cruelty cases involving farm animals like goats often aren't taken as seriously. He'd like to change that by sending a strong signal to the defendant.

"If it turns out that Ms. Dillenbeck is responsible for the suffering and deaths of all those animals than she ought to pay," said Bartlett.

He wants jail time. But the D.A. has a different idea. She said the case is being taken seriously and the best plan is to continue to enforce the impound order and keep a close eye on the animals.

"It's important that these cases are taken on a case by case basis and you're not merely promoting any sort of national agenda on the part of any particular advocacy group," said Sira.

Dillenbeck is due in court later this month.
Source: Capital 9 News - April 10, 2008
Update posted on Apr 10, 2008 - 5:04PM 


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