Andrew Wimer
Andrew Wimer · October 17, 2023

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C.—Fairytale Farm Animal Sanctuary won a first-round victory in a lawsuit to defend its ability to welcome the public on its property. Judge William Long denied the city’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, which was filed by sanctuary owner Kimberly Dunckel and the Institute for Justice, a non-profit law firm that defends property rights and economic liberty.

“It has been a struggle to support the sanctuary without events and groups of visitors, but today’s decision gives us hope,” said Kimberly. “What keeps us going is the fact that the animals we love and care for have nowhere else to go and the ongoing support of the community. Today’s ruling is a step in the right direction.”

Fairytale Farm is a refuge for abused and neglected donkeys, goats, rabbits, ducks, and more. After registering as a nonprofit in 2021, the Dunckels hosted groups of Girl Scouts and homeschoolers, held themed events for people to meet with the animals, and welcomed groups of volunteers to help with care and upkeep of the sanctuary. The sanctuary quickly became popular in the community, and the Dunckels’ neighbors all supported the nonprofit and its activities.

But earlier this year, the city ordered the Dunckels to close the sanctuary completely. After an outpouring of community support, the city changed its mind. It allowed them to run the sanctuary, but gave the Dunckels new and confusing restrictions on the visitors they could host at their home. Those restrictions have essentially forced the Dunckels to close their doors to the public, making it difficult for the sanctuary to fundraise and threatening its long-term sustainability.

Meanwhile, the city allows other businesses in the neighborhood, such as home day cares, to operate without those restrictions on visitors.

“This decision recognizes that the City’s zoning power isn’t limitless,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Caroline Grace Brothers. “If Kim wanted to run a home day care, she could host over a dozen children at her home each day and allow them to interact with the animals. But she can’t have those same children come to her home if their visit relates to the sanctuary. That makes no sense, and North Carolina’s Constitution forbids such arbitrary restrictions.”