WEST BEND — One chicken owner with significant animal violations is appealing a court decision and preparing for federal action against the village of Richfield.
Colgate property owner Danah Zoulek said her neighbors continuously bait her animals, wait for them to take a step off her property and then call police. Several neighbors were contacted for comment and did not respond.
“I feel like it’s that book ‘1984,’ having the neighbors spy on me and report me for every little thing,” she said. “I won’t back down, I’m too stubborn — but it has been hard.”
With the assistance of her attorney, she appealed
one of her cases and is looking into a 1983 federal action case, which pertains to the deprivation of civil rights and the selective enforcement of ordinances.
Attorney Jeremy Vanderloop said he is ready to file the case as soon as Zoulek instructs him to do so.
“The type of case she wants to file is that the government is acting to harass somebody under power of law, and there really has been a lot of litigation here,” he said. “From our perspective, we’re hopeful that the courts won’t tolerate it any further, that she has the right to act without interference.”
While details of their discussions are privileged information, he said they have talked about filing the case and actions she could take. Separately, he took one of the many back-and-forth violations to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which denied the review and sent it back to the circuit court. A briefing last week left matters pending before
the court. Richfield wanted to litigate more issues, Vanderloop said, but the judge shut them down, so the case is under appeal now.
“As set forth in the brief, the village has engaged in years of litigation here and we did ask for the court to find it frivolous,” Vanderloop said. “We hope they do so because enough is enough, we believe the court system has already ruled on this issue and there is no case anymore.”
The defendant has 18 separate cases in just the past two years alone for her chickens and said she has more than 60 instances involving animals.
“It should be noted that what has been spent is on top of the fact that the actual lawyer that’s representing Richfield in this suit is paid for by the insurance company,” Vanderloop said.
On her end, Zoulek estimated she owes between $15,000 and $20,000 in fees for her animal cases and around $100,000 in lawyer fees. She said the plan is to file her federal case within the next few months.
“It costs money to go to court. I do not have unlimited resources,” she said. “I have repeatedly
asked Richfield to be reasonable, instead they have chosen to continue litigating. It’s been over four years now.”
Zoulek is the owner of Scenic Pit, an old gravel pit she bought to transform into a horse stable for disabled children and an area for animals to roam. She said her neighbors aren’t happy with these plans and her animals and along with the village, are making her life very difficult.
“I had a jury trial about my chickens last month and I posed the question to the jury, it’s not if the chicken crosses the road, it’s why did the chicken cross the road – I kid you not, that’s what I said,” Zoulek said. “I tried to explain to the jury that there’s a bait pile, and
when you have free range animals they will continue to check that area.” So she sold and replaced the original chickens with birds that did not know where that bait pile was, but the antics continue, and so do the fines.
Richfield Village Administrator Jim Healy said the history with Zoulek is complicated but he trusts the sheriff’s department to do its job.
Zoulek has moved her horses to another property and said she is selling her chickens and poultry because it has been years of the same issue.
“But they won’t drive me away,” she said.