Two Cited in Death and Neglect of Animals at Santa's Land

By Joe Gullo

Published 03/03 2014 01:18PM

Updated 03/03 2014 06:16PM

PUTNEY, Vt. - Police are investigating the death and neglect of animals at Santa's Land. 

According to Windham County Sheriff Keith Clark, police found 16 fallow deer, 1 pheasant, and one pot-bellied pig dead on the property. 

Animal caretaker Brian Deistler, 24, and owner Lillian Billewicz 55, are each facing one count of animal cruelty.

Police say a local veterinarian was brought in to check on the other animals that were at the theme park. The 17 animals were not found to need emergency care and stayed on the property. 

Police discovered the abuse when a deputy was dropping something off to Deistler and noticed that no one had been there for a few days.

Santa's Land released this statement on their Facebook page Sunday:
Dear Friends of Santa's Land. This is from the owner of Santa's Land. I am at the park now and please be rest assured, no animals have been rescued nor seized. All the animals remain at the park and are being well taken care of. The initiating information concerning animals being rescued is false. 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. We thank you for your support in this and would hope you would not believe the post of our animals being seized or rescued. We will continue ti keep everyone informed of what transpires. Thank you.

Santa's Land operates seasonal and Sheriff Clark says the theme park is currently closed. Last summer, Santa's Land re-opened under new ownership. 

It's now up to the state’s attorney to decide if they are going to pursue criminal charges. 

The investigation continues and anyone with information is asked to contact the Windham County Sheriff's Department at (802)-365-4942.

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