UPDATE — Judge Dismisses Dog Mural Lawsuit



The mural at issue. This is an ad.

On December 2, Kim Houghton, owner of a dog daycare and grooming business in Virginia, filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that the Arlington County government violated her First Amendment rights when it ordered her to modify a mural on her building.   At the center of the controversy was an unauthorized 60-foot by 16-foot mural of cartoon dogs on a wall outside her store and facing a public dog park.  The county objected to the sign because it believed that the mural was nothing more than an advertisement for Ms. Houghton’s dog-oriented business.  The dog groomer argued that  the order was an unlawful regulation of art.

Siouxsie blogged about this case here.  Gothlaw blogged about this case at this link

Painting this on the side of the groomer's building would not pass for art either.

As both predicted, there was a real problem with the case — the case was not about art, but about commercial speech.  The mural was nothing more than a high-concept advertisement.  Just because the mural doesn’t say the name of her business does not mean it is not an ad.

It looks like Judge Leonie M. Brinkema agrees:

In issuing her ruling, Judge Brinkema said that the mural is a “classic form of branding and advertising,” and meets the definition of a sign. The judge found that the County’s sign ordinance is a valid, content-neutral restriction on the size of signs in the M-1 zoning district, even noting that by saying the ordinance was content-based, Wag More Dogs was “barking up the wrong tree.”

Siouxsie would like to echo Judge Brinkema comments on the merits of case by stating, “that dog won’t hunt.”  The result in this was fairly predictable.  But it still feels good to be right.


~ by siouxsielaw on February 11, 2011.

One Response to “UPDATE — Judge Dismisses Dog Mural Lawsuit”

  1. “But it still feels good to be right. ”

    Yes. Yes it does. However, in my case, I’m only ever correct in that “broken clock” sorta’ way 🙂

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