April 26, 2023

Kimberly and Art Dunckel founded Fairytale Farm Animal Sanctuary to give neglected and special-needs farm animals a “happily ever after.” Their 3.3-acre property provides a place where the public could learn from and engage with those animals. But since the city of Winston-Salem decided to tell them who they can and cannot have on her property, life has been anything but a fairy tale.

Before she and Art purchased the property for their home in 2017, Kimberly contacted the city to make sure that the land could also be used as a place for the community. The city gave her several procedural steps to follow, along with the assurance that, if she completed them, there would be no problem using the property as she wanted. But in January 2023, the city changed its mind.

The city first told Kimberly that she could not operate an animal sanctuary on the property at all. Then, faced with mounting public pressure from news media and a petition with several thousand signatures, the city backed down slightly to say that she could have the animals but she could not have groups of volunteers or hold events of any type related to the sanctuary on the property—not even small educational classes for Girl Scouts and homeschoolers. But events and volunteers are the heart and soul of Fairytale Farm—and a key piece of how the Dunckels envisioned using their property. Meanwhile, the city allows other organizations and businesses in the same zoning district to have multiple guests and customers.

That is why the Dunckels have joined forces with the Institute for Justice to fight for their right to use their property freely and without government interference. They have filed a lawsuit asking the court to find that the city’s restrictions on their events and volunteers violate the North Carolina Constitution.