WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — A Triad city’s motion to dismiss a lawsuit focused on an animal sanctuary’s zoning issue has been denied.

According to a release from the Initiative for Justice, “a non-profit law firm that defends property rights and economic liberty,” Judge William Long denied Winston-Salem’s motion of dismissal, calling this move “a first-round victory” in the lawsuit filed by Fairytale Farm Animal Sanctuary owner Kimberly Dunckel, alongside the IJ.

“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.”

The release describes Fairytale Farm as a “refuge for abused and neglected” animals such as donkeys, goats and rabbits. The sanctuary registered as a nonprofit in 2021 and began hosting groups of children and held events that allowed people to meet the animals.

“The sanctuary quickly became popular in the community, and the Dunckels’ neighbors all supported the nonprofit and its activities,” say the IJ press release.

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The city of Winston-Salem ordered Fairytale Farm to close in early 2023 but changed its mind “after an outpouring of community support” and allowed them to continue operating, but set forth “new and confusing” restrictions. These restrictions “essentially forced” Fairytale Farm to close to the public, which created challenges for fundraising and threatened the sanctuary’s “long-term sustainability.”

Businesses operating in the same neighborhood as Fairytale Farm, such as day cares, are allowed to operate without similar visitor restrictions, the release states.

“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.”