Santa' Land owner cited for animal cruelty

PUTNEY -- The Windham county Sheriff's Department on Saturday cited two Westminster residents with cruelty to animals following an investigation at Santa's Land.

Brian Deistler, 24, and Lillian Billewicz, 55, will appear in court on April 29, to answer to the charges.

According to a Sunday night release, the "Windham County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant at Santa's Land as part of an investigation regarding several deceased animals and suspected neglect of animals housed at the theme park. Based on the results of the search, Deistler and Billewicz were cited for cruelty to animals."

Putney animal control officer Henry Farnum assisted with the investigation.

Billewicz and her family took over the Putney landmark in July 2013,

On Sunday afternoon, a person claiming to be the owner of Santa's Land posted on Facebook that "I am at the park now and please be rest assured, no animals have been rescued nor seized."

The post continued: "It is true officials came to our park yesterday upon concern of someone who remains anonymous. After a veterinarian toured our park and examined all our animals, her only comments to the caretaker and myself, were the donkeys and the ponies should have their hooves checked. She also stated a pony should have a dental exam. It is true there have been some deer which have passed away and this is unfortunate and saddens us. Upon the death of the first deer, we called in our vet. to assess the situation. All appropriate lab work was performed to rule out disease factor. The harshness of the winter has taken its toll but please be assured all animals are being fed, watered and sheltered appropriately. Neither the caretaker nor myself have been arrested, rather we are cited to explain our side of this situation."

Police said the investigation is ongoing and have asked anyone with information regarding the well-being of the animals at Santa's Land to contact Corporal Melissa Martin at 802-365-4942.


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