Is doggie mural art or advertising?
For almost two years now, a big blue tarp has covered the backside of Kim Houghton’s dog grooming shop, Wag More Dogs in Arlington, Va., as courts try to figure out if what’s beneath it is art or advertising.
Since Wag More Dogs’ backside faces Shirlington Dog Park, Houghton thought it would be a good idea to turn the boring cinderblock wall into a mural. She spent $4,000 to commission a painting of cartoon dogs, bones and paw prints. It was intended as gesture of goodwill, she says, and a gift to the community.
The Arlington County Zoning Board saw it differently.
In the fall of 2010, the board informed her that it considered the mural a sign for her business, and that it violated the neighborhood size limit of 60 square feet — even though the mural itself doesn’t mention her business. Houghton said she was told to cover the mural at her own expense, face fines or closure, or make the mural a government sign by adding “Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area” in four-foot-high letters.
In December, 2010, she filed a lawsuit, saying the county was violating her right to free speech. U.S. District Judge Leonie M. Brinkema disagreed and dismissed her lawsuit in February of 2011.
The following June, Houghton field an appeal, with the backing of the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit, Arlington-based libertarian law firm.
It’s scheduled to be heard this week by a federal Court of Appeals in Richmond, WTOP reports.
Her attorney says he will argue that Arlington’s sign code “unconstitutionally gives government bureaucrats the power to play art critic.”
Posted by jwoestendiek March 22nd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: advertising, animals, appeals court, arlington, art, boarding, building, dogs, first amendment, free speech, groomer, institute for justice, kim houghton, mural, pets, shirlington dog park, virginia, wag more dogs, wall, zoning board