FALLBROOK, Calif. — A small farm with llamas, alpacas and goats began with a mission to provide therapy for those battling Alzheimer’s and quickly found visitors were soothed by the animals’ presence amid a challenging year.
However after only a few months, The Laughing Llama Fallbrook is being forced to stop giving tours.
Tours began in February with 16 people maximum and never more than six cars parked on the property. The tours ran three days a week and less than eight hours of business operation total, but neighbors began to complain to the county.
“We were zoned agricultural,” The Laughing Llama owner Shanna Daley said. “We were within legal bounds to run the business out of our house. The neighbors called to make that first complaint, but were shut down because we were zoned correctly.
“The next issue was I guess the animals, which we had no idea.”
Zoning for Fallbrook’s portion of San Diego County allows for one large animal per half acre and that includes even small goats which would take the 1.5 acre farm from nine animals, down to just three.
The ranch has three llamas, two alpacas and four Nigerian dwarf goats.
“There’s not one animal here that I’d be able to choose between,” Daley said. “All of our animals are rescues.”
Daley’s grandmother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis in late 2019 shook up her family’s world. They moved to Fallbrook to live on a larger property together. Soon, they’d have a few new family members.
“I started doing a lot of research on what were good ways to help settle a person going through the episodes that she has and I came across and llamas and alpacas,” she said.
She adds: “I guess the greatest part of having that Alzheimer’s is — if there is a good part — it’s new for her every single time that she comes down and gets to engage with them. It kind of never gets old because it’s the first time each time for her.”
The decision to launch The Laughing Llama tours largely was to help the family’s finances, as Daley’s mother lost her income to be a full-time caretaker for her grandmother.
They also wanted the ranch to extend that same peace it was giving them to visitors.
Daley says neighbors took issue with people coming into the area, even though tours were limited.
Although Daley was careful with sharing the serenity of this community by not sharing the address publicly, asking visitors to drive slow and only park close to the property, the focus has turned to applying for a new permit. The county is working with Daley on an administrative permit that would allow more animals on the property, but they can’t be used for profit.
Even though she cannot keep her business going, she will get to keep all nine animals.
Part of this new process will also involve linking up with a youth organization for education. For now, she is finishing previously booked tours through May while she works on the permit.
“So if anyone is interested in partnering with us, we actually do love the idea of it,” she said. “It was something we were wanting to do even when the business was open.”
Anyone interested can contact her through The Laughing Llama website.