WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Fairytale Farm Animal Sanctuary is taking legal action to stay in business.

The rescue focuses on farm animals with physical and other disabilities.

For more than three months, the sanctuary and the City of Winston-Salem have been in gridlock over zoning rules after the city received an anonymous complaint.

Kimberly Dunckel and her family run the sanctuary in their backyard. She tells FOX8 that when they started it, they had conversations with the city to be sure the fencing and animal areas met city standards.

Her animals are like her children.

“We’ve taken care of so many of them. We’ve nursed them through sickness and injury,” Dunckel said. “We’ve committed to them. They are our responsibility.”

The family started the business in May 2021.

“We spent a lot of time and personal funds to clean it up and get it looking nice again,” said Dunckel about their property on Wayside Drive. “We feel like that’s an asset to the city.”

In January, the City of Winston-Salem told them their non-profit farm is considered a commercial business and can’t operate out of their home.

This means they can’t host fundraisers, school groups, have people stay in their glamping area or have volunteers help them with their animals.

The idea of not having people interact with the animals is not only a funding problem for the rescue but a human problem.

“We’ve had a lot of instances where we’ve had school groups with students of different abilities come here and visit and say…’They’re just like me. They’re living their life like normal. It’s awesome,” Dunckel said.

Attorneys for the family believe the city is violating the family’s constitutional rights. 

The lawsuit is an attempt to iron out the details of the ordinance, get clarity on what the family can do and potentially make changes. 

The family and attorneys have not seen any specific documentation from the city with the ordinances the farm is violating.

They view the non-profit just like any other home-based business.

They’ve reached out to city council members but haven’t been able to connect to get any clarity. Now, the Dunckels question if they’re in the clear each time they have people over.

“My kids will look outside…and say ‘somebody is outside. Are they allowed to be here?’ It’s that kind of feeling we have in our home now,” Dunckel said. “That can’t be the intent of the zoning laws, but that’s what’s happening to our family.”

The Winston-Salem city planner also shared there are worries about sanitation practices and certain animals on the property. 

The Dunckels tell FOX8 they were not aware those were points of concern for the city.

The city has not issued an official violation notice. If they do, the Dunckels will have five days to get back in compliance. After that, they’re fined $100 each day.