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DEVELOPING: Doggie Daycare Bites County With Sign Lawsuit

by ARLnow.com | December 2, 2010 at 12:08 pm | 5,657 views | 147 Comments

(Updated at 1:55 p.m.) Wag More Dogs, the doggie day care business that has been engaged in an ongoing dispute with the county over a large mural facing the Shirlington dog park, has filed a lawsuit against Arlington County and county zoning administrator Melinda Artman on the grounds that Arlington’s sign ordinance violates the First Amendment right to free speech.

Wag More Dogs owner Kim Houghton says she commissioned the $4,000 mural, which depicts dogs, bones and paw prints, to beautify the dog park, which her business abuts. But the county zoning office didn’t see the mural as art, it saw it as a 60 foot by 16 foot commercial sign — well beyond the 60 square feet of signage the store is allowed under the county sign ordinance. Had the mural depicted flowers or anything not dog-related, said county regulators, it would be permitted.

After a long back and forth, Houghton was finally allowed to open her business in September, on the condition that the mural remained completely covered with a tarp. In October, Houghton was told that the sign could be considered a mural if she paid for the words “Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area” to be painted in four-foot high letters.

Shortly after that, Houghton linked up with the Institute for Justice, a Ballston-based libertarian public interest law firm. This morning Houghton and her attorneys filed a lawsuit and asked for a preliminary injunction that would allow the mural to be displayed while the lawsuit makes its way through the courts.

“The decision to file the lawsuit was to protect my freedom of speech and to ultimately prevail in keeping the mural up as it is, instead of turning it into an informational sign for the county,” Houghton said after a press conference at her store this morning.

This morning’s legal filings cite dozens of prior cases, many of which upheld the right of business owners to display signs and artwork.

“What Arlington County is basically saying is that it is allowed to play art critic,” said Robert Frommer, the lead counsel for the Institute for Justice. “We’re very confident of our legal position, because we’re very confident in the First Amendment.”

But Artman, the county’s top zoning official, seemed unfazed.

“My reaction to being sued is that it’s all in a day’s work,” Artman said in a phone interview. “I’ve been sued before, and I’ll be sued again.”

(She noted, however, that she hasn’t been sued since joining Arlington County in 2008.)

Artman said she thought the proposed wording that would have allowed the painting to be considered a mural and not a sign was an “elegant solution,” and added that the Supreme Court has consistently upheld the right of localities to regulate signage.

“We wouldn’t have an ordinance if we honestly felt that we were violating the law and snubbing the constitution,” she said.

County Board Chairman Jay Fisette said the lawsuit was “regrettable.” He also said it was surprising, since county staff thought they had worked out a viable solution to the issue.

“The county has worked hard to accommodate this business owner within the standards of the zoning ordinance that regulates commercial signs,” Fisette said, adding that the lawsuit “does not appear to be a free speech issue, it’s a sign regulation issue.”

The county board has been planning to begin the process of rewriting the county’s sign ordinance at some point in the next couple of months. Fisette wouldn’t say if he thought the mural would be allowed under a revised sign ordinance, but did say generally that the board would like to allow “some additional signage for businesses.”

“Most board members, if not all, have an interest in providing some additional opportunities or flexibility within the sign ordinance,” he said. He added that some sort of objective measure would have to be used to determine which sign are permitted.

“We don’t want to apply our own sense of taste to these issues, we have to come up with a standard and a policy that can be equitably applied across the board,” Fisette said. “That is the challenge because you can imagine a mural that isn’t quite as attractive as this one.”

Fisette said that as a dog owner, he personally liked the mural, but added it ultimately came down to the fact that it was “not consistent with our ordinance.”

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  • TGEoA

    Awesome! They should claim rascim as well and name county employees individually in the suit

    • Reynolds

      The County often touts it’s transformation into a “Vibrant” urban community. In fact, a gentleman recently noted at the Trader Joe’s hearing a couple weeks ago how great it was to have a community similar to New York neighborhoods where one can get not just a kabob, but three different types of kabobs a short distance from each other. The point is, New York (Brooklyn especially) also allows murals on the side of certain buildings. It’s one of the things that makes it so interesting, vibrant and gives it so much character. You won’t see people speaking about Arlington with the same reverence they will about New York because Arlington is too rigid. Arlington needs to loosen up and permit this innocuous mural that gives the do park and the surrounding industrial area a more interesting appearance and vibrant character.

      • TGEoA

        One of the biggest problems with Arlington are douchebags trying to turn this place into Brooklyn.

        And kebobs suck.

        • LAbound

          Don’t worry, Arlington is far from being anything like NY. DC and it’s burbs just being voted an area with the worst looking people, it’s far from a NYC. Not to mention the ultra boring politic infested culture here. Us douchebags are happy to be in Arlington only temporarily until we can get back to a place like LA, NYC or Miami where people look better and don’t whine about minutia.

          • a’town

            dont let a metro bus hit you on your way out!

          • local

            Preferably an ART bus.

  • NorthAdams

    waste of their time and effort. the ordinance is very clear.
    And I do agree with TGEoA..

    • Lou

      The ordinance could be as clear as the logic against suing Ray LaHood et al for racism over the HOT lanes, but that never stopped anybody before.

  • Yellow Submarine

    Free speech is not the same as advertising. Local jurisdictions have authority to regulate signage within their borders. This lawsuit is simply frivolous and a giant waste of my tax dollars.

    BTW, a friend’s dog was turned away for boarding because the staff person wasn’t “a fan” of the dog’s breed (she’s a mutt).

    I’m an animal lover and advocate, but this establishment is obviously not trying to make friends in the community.

    • WMD

      Wag More Dogs doesn’t turn away any breeds. We love them all! We do however require all dogs to be evaluated to make sure they are well socilized and non-aggressive. That way we can ensure a safe and fun daycare environment for all.

    • Joe Birchwood

      Understandable, but having been to many dog parks and seeing how they interact the owner of WMD is probably the best judge on what dogs should be let in since she is liable in some ways for how they act once they are inside. If you’ve been around enough dogs you can easily tell by their mannerisms, disposition, etc. how they might interact. Why take a risk? If you have a child that has social problems they probably won’t fare well in child care….someone has to make that decision. Why take the risk?

  • Runaway Train

    Glad to see Wagmore challenging the county on this matter. The county could easily make an exception and look at these types of situations on a case by case basis, but it has chosen not to. If Arlington wants to be small business friendly the county board needs to realize that each small business is unique and consider exceptions on a case by case basis.
    It makes no sense that the Muddy Mutt is allowed to have graffiti painted on the side of it, but immediately next door Wagmore can’t have a mural. I get that the Muddy Mutt owners want to encourage young artists, but I am surprised the county hasn’t come down on the Muddy Mutt for an environmental violation due to the amount of spray paint.

    • SoCo Resident

      Why does County Zoning Adminstrator Melinda Artman SO studiously avoid all the illegal signs of home builders on residential streets?

      • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

        Actually, that would be a problem. When it comes to speech, the county and any government cannot “make exceptions.” Then the govt is selecting what speech is permissible and what speech is not.

        That said, it is perfectly constitutional to regulate time, place and manner of speech. I, the govt, cant say what you can and cannot say — I can say that standing in the middle of government land, namely a freeway, is not safe and you cant do it there. I can say if you are going to speak with 100,000 people on the WDC mall, you have to pay for portajohns.

        If Arlington has a code, it must apply it without regard to the content of speech. It cannot judge some art worthy, and other art unworthy. It cannot make exceptions.

  • el fat kid

    i think the county is wrong for not allowing an exception for this wall ‘art’…. however, i’m not sure how effective filing a free speech lawsuit on behalf of a business will be in this case. will be amusing to see if citizen’s united is cited. regardless, they’re not going to win.

  • Concerned

    The mural looked very nice. The county’s sign laws have been the subject of much aggravation among business owners. The county should be a little friendlier to taxpayers whose taxes pay county employees’ salaries.

    • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

      The government of Arlington represents Arlington. All of Arlington. Not just the business of Arlington. There are more interests than just business. There is the interest of the citizens of arlington – you know, the ones who actually elected these guys – who do not want to live in a community where we are barraged by advertising from every angle.

      I am not making a judgment on this particular mural or this particular ordinance. What I arguing is that there are more interests than just business, and it is appropriate for the government to take those interests into consideration.

      • Disagree

        I usually find non-business owners, anyone working for the government (local or federal), or in any capacity other than a business owner never understands advertising. Most of the small business store fronts you see in Arlington eek out a rather meager living in large part due to the inability to advertise. The government sets signs standards without determining what is effective or ineffective for businesses. Sign standards are chosen in a haphazard way by simple discussion where a small group of people appointed to make decisions for the rest of us pluck their decisions from thin air without knowing what they are deciding on. The result is narrow signs/advertising requirements just for the sake of limitation. Arlington should be more like Houston. Houston is thriving because it has relaxed zoning criteria. Arlingtonians, because so many work for and around government, are the type of people who like to govern everyone else and tell everyone else what to do. Governance is o.k., but less governance is better. We all know how to wipe our rear ends but if we let them, I’m sure plenty of people in Arlington would love to tell us all how they’d like us to do it.

        • Set the controls

          Testify.

  • DK

    Arlington County staff simply have way too much time on their collective hands.

    • SoCo Resident

      Too much time is right, running around in those little white county cars ignoring the real problems and concentrating on THIS! At what point will Jay Fissette realize that the county situation is out of control! After this lawsuits costs AC millions! We have truly lost our way, JAY!!

    • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

      I appreciate the fact that Arlington is not blanketed with advertisements and signs. I appreciate the fact that I can get down the street without hitting all those lunch-board signs (from a previous conversation). Arlington has an interest in representing the citizens that elect it. I know personally, seeing other communities where commercial advertising is rampant and you feel like you are assaulted with solicitation for $5 pizzas and haircuts and whatever – I appreciate arlington’s efforts to create a positive and livable community.

  • Runaway Train

    Are you kidding? “Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area” was the concession? That sounds about as sterile as it can get. Who talks like that? It’s a dog park.

  • CrystalMikey

    This just looks like one huge, gaudy advert. Then again, it’s probably nicer to look at that a wall of cinder blocks.

    • The Noze Bros

      I bet your favorite color is plaid!

  • Confused

    I always wondered that too – how does Muddy Mutt next door get away with everything painted on their building? Someone please explain if I’m missing something. How are the two different? And why is the new business being singled out?

  • John Boner

    “What Arlington County is basically saying is that it is allowed to play art critic.”

    Why not? John Boehner and Bill Donohue got the Smithsonian to yank a piece because they didn’t think it was art.

    • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

      Smithsonian is not the government.

      • Chasmosaur

        It’s administered by the Federal government as a trust, but it’s not an official Federal agency. But since the funding is administered by the Feds, they do have control. I interned there during the government shut downs of the 90′s when funds weren’t made available for salaries, so this I know.

      • Anonymous

        its administered and funded by the government.

  • FedUp

    “She noted, however, that she hasn’t been sued since joining Arlington County in 2008.” Well, Ms. Artman, there’s always a first time. Maybe this is exactly what the county needs: a wake up call to the failures in Ms. Artman’s department.

  • Chris Slatt

    The difference between the Muddy Mutt “graffiti” and Wag More Dogs mural is covered in the previous Arlnow story on this issue (http://www.arlnow.com/2010/08/26/controversy-erupts-over-dog-murals/)

    If a business has a mural that relates to its business, it’s a sign. Otherwise it’s not. So If Wag More Dogs had commissioned a mural that was a forest scene or something, it would have been fine. But since it relates to their business it’s a sign.

    Keep in mind, lawmakers often have an impossible task in writing specific ordinance language that is 1) easy to understand 2) unambiguous and 3) prohibits only bad behavior while leaving good behavior untouched.

    In this particular case, the sign ordinance seems to be preventing a mural that people generally have no problem with, but that doesn’t mean the ordinance is a bad idea – think of the potential abuses if any business could make any sign it wanted as long as it called it “art” instead of a “sign”. Every wall is a potential billboard! Who wouldn’t want to live in that town?

    And handling each one on a case by case basis? Please no, that always ends in favoritism and personal taste coming into play.

    • http://www.greatergreaterwashington.org/joey Joey

      What’s interesting about that distinction is that it really does sound like a content-based restriction on speech. If it displays something related to the business, it’s a sign, but if it doesn’t, then it’s not.

      Content-based restrictions on speech, while they *may* be constitutional, have to meet the much higher standard of surviving “strict scrutiny” by a court (rather than a simple standard of benefit-of-the-doubt “reasonableness”).

      The 4th Circuit is pretty conservative. I give Arlington’s odds of winning this one at 1 in 4.

      • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

        Commercial speech receives lower first amendment protection that other speech. Than political speech for example. The ability of a government – for example the FTC – to regulate commercial speech – including time place and manner regulations, is well founded. Arlington’s position in this case, as many have noted, is actually pretty sound.

        • http://www.greatergreaterwashington.org/joey Joey

          I of course agree re: general regulation of commercial speech. It is, however, first unclear whether this speech is really commercial in nature. One element I believe may be an extra thorn in Arlington’s side is its discussion of a possible resolution by *changing* the speech a bit to act as a general sign for the dog park. That alone makes it sound like content-based restriction, whether commercial or not.

          It wouldn’t surprise me if that whole dicussion of how to change the speech was a ploy by the IJ to try to trap the County into making a content-based distinction.

          Ultimately, all that matters is what the 4th Circuit (or one of its equally conservative/libertarian District courts) thinks. I stand by my 3-to-1 (1 in 4) odds.

      • local

        The content is what makes it commercial, so it’s not really content-based in that regard.

    • Christine

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I have to wonder if the company would have put up the mural if there weren’t a dog park there. And should it be treated differently because there IS a dog park there?

      But really I do agree that it’s really best to stick to the rules as their written. Case by case is just asking for trouble.

    • The Noze Bros

      I believe a “sign” would actually mention the business, or address, or hours, or something. Unless WagMore’s brand is distinctive (like Nike’s) then it looks like art to me. If it were in another location I wouldn’t think it’s a sign, and I doubt you would either. Arl Co is off base here, whether it’s the interpretation of the regulations or the regulations themselves.

      • JNB

        Unless I knew that a doggie daycare was actually in that building, if I was in the dog park I don’t believe that I’d consider a mural of dogs romping around in the grass to be an advertisement, but more likely, a community project to beautify the neighborhood. From the photos, it looks infinitely better than a cinderblock wall at any rate. As for the legality of it … let’s say there was a florist down the street who pays the doggie daycare owner to paint flowers over the fanciful pups – I guess it would be okay – because 1) it wouldn’t actually say “Florist,” 2) didn’t give an address or phone number, 3) wasn’t adjacent to the florist’s business, 4) it said in an image, “This is a lovely park.” … Well, this IS a lovely “dog park” …

  • Josh

    And the green tarp looks soooooo much more attractive.

    Senseless.

    • Scooby Do

      Looks blue to me.

  • Let’s Be Free

    Now that we know the standard is whether the display relates to a business and that no favortism or personal taste is involved in the enforcement of Arlington County sign ordinances, and case by case decisions are not made, surely we will see the huge banners hung from the side of the Capitals Kettler Iceplex torn down, pronto.

    • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

      My guess is they have a permit or license or whatever is required for that. The Iceplex is a pretty big partnership with the Arl County govt.

      Pursuant to the ordnance, the point is not that you cant do this stuff, its that you have to do it in compliance with the rules set forth. Caps probably complied (altho I am just guessing)

    • Sam

      Who says that case-by-case decisions are not made? To erect a sign in Arlington County, you need to submit a comprehensive sign plan to the board. The board then chooses to approve or deny the plan based on factors such as safety, appearance, and the effect on tourism. It’s not a black and white rule.

      • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

        Houghton’s argument against that is the county requires a $1,782 to apply for a comprehensive sign plan, regardless of whether it’s ultimately approved. That’s steep and risky for a small business owner, he lawyers say.

        • Rover

          Wow.

  • CrystalCity’er

    “The decision to file the lawsuit was to protect my freedom of speech and to ultimately prevail in keeping the mural up as it is, instead of turning it into an informational sign for the county,” Houghton said after a press conference at her store this morning.

    …Yet she originally said that the intent of the mural was to “beautify the dog park”. Wouldn’t that be reflected by making the mural into just that – an ‘informational sign’ for the park, as it is maintained by the county?

    • G

      Yeah I thought that was a decent compromise. But now I think this may have become a battle of pride…

      • Rover

        The “sign” should read “Wag More Dogs Wecomes You To Shirlington Dog Park”. This way it is a “sign” for the business AND the county. Otherwise, it is just some paint on the side of a wall depicting some dogs with NO mention of a business at all.

        • Christine

          The whole problem is that it CAN’T be considered a sign for the business, so putting their name on it would solidify the fact that it IS a sign for the business, therefore making it against country ordinance.

        • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

          If the mural is depicting dogs, and its in a dog park, and your business is dogs – its related to your business. No court is going to find otherwise.

  • KalashniKEV

    LOL @ the dog giving the “WTF?” look to the tarp!

    Lawmakers do have a tricky job when trying to dictate how every little aspect of life should be conducted… but then again they also have other options to exercise like 1) Do the right thing or 2) Shut up and go find something important to regulate.

    I wonder what would happen if she replaced it with a humorous caricature mural depicting the county board as drunk off tax revenue, wasting money on foolish projects, and catering to bums and illegals while persecuting the working man? It’s not related to her business… it is free speech.

    • George McC

      Wow, I’m surprised it took you so long to figure out a way to berate the homeless. Typical post of your yours: “Blah blah blah…bums…blah blah blah…illegals…blah blah blah.” Your posts really are just fill in the blank aren’t they. Do you have a template to save keystrokes?

      • SoCo Resident

        YEP typical “template” posting of KalashniKEV. Homeless, blah, blah. But no homophobia in this one.

  • Teyo

    Maybe if she wanted to beautify the park she could have worked with the County on a design instead of preemptively painting this and then complaining when it’s found to be in violation of local law. And if she wanted to beautify the park, what’s the problem with painting a sign with the park’s name on it?

    • George McC

      The goofy thing is, according to county regulations, if the mural had cats instead of dogs, it would be allowed. Hmmm…I wonder if she could paint a mural of cats wearing dog masks.

  • Bluemont John

    The question here is: Does a wall with dogs painted on it constitute an advertisement?

    And to answer that, we must determine: Would the average person who is unaware that the business is nearby interpret the mural as an offer of a product or service?

    Clearly, the answer is no. Looking at the mural, all you see are cartoon dogs. The name of the business isn’t there. Nor the phone number. Nor even a mention of what the business is selling. It’s a bunch of dogs–overlooking a dog park.

    What Ms. Houghton has paid for out of her own pocket is a contribution to the visual appeal of the neighborhood.

    It’s infuriating that the county is wasting money on this. NO ONE is offended by this mural. (And even if you were–is that tarp better?) And yet the Muddy Mutt has that nasty urban-war-zone graffiti–which is allowed? Absolutely crazy.

    Arlington seems to be in the habit of throwing money down legal ratholes–the HOT lane lawsuit, the futile and expensive legal wrangling with DHS in an attempt not to let the ICE find out the immigration status of serious criminals–and now this.

    • ChrisW

      Good points all. The fact that the mural contains no commercial language and directly faces a dog park(!) cautions against regulation. Honestly, if you didn’t know who paid for the mural would you reasonably think it is a commercial ad? I wouldn’t.

  • Rover

    Ironic how the county objected to the mural as a “sign” for her business (when the mural did not depict her business name it seems), but they want to turn it into a “sign” for the county-owned dog park! A sign should be a sign Arlington!

    If I had a store that sold bricks, would a brick wall be a “sign” for my business?

    • Bluemont John

      YES! Exactly!

    • Novanglus

      And if the store sold blue tarps, they’d have to take down the tarp and show the dog mural instead.

      Is the “smell the roses” mural still on that building on Wilson near the Silver Diner? If that building were a florist instead of a dance studio, would it be considered an illegal sign?

      Webster defines sign as “a display (as a lettered board or a configuration of neon tubing) used to identify or advertise a place of business or a product”. There’s no lettering or mention of a business on this mural, therefore it’s art, not a sign.

      If the county wants to regulate art, they have that right, but they can’t discriminate based on content.

      • Rover

        Exactly. The artwork in this mural may indeed be similar to art elsewhere in the business. But, as long as nothing is tradmarked, the art does not mention the business at all or otherwise represent it. She just used the same artist with a consistant style.

    • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

      You guys can make snarky comments about this. But I can tell you, for a court, this is not a hard case. You do not need to mention your line of business in an advertisement in order to be promoting your business. It just has to be related. A court will find this related.

      • Novanglus

        But the ordinance doesn’t say “promoting a business” or “related to” a business. It defines a sign a “device of any kind which…is used to direct, identify, or inform the public while viewing the same from outdoors…”

        The County’s subjective interpretation notwithstanding, the court needs to determine whether that mural provides direction, identification, or information to the public.

        The County’s compromise — “identify our facility instead of yours and we’ll let the sign slide” — is basically extortion.

  • Amanda

    The thing the article failed to mention is, although the mural does not list any business name or services, the dogs depicted are the exact same dogs that are shown in Wag More Dogs’ logo. I think if the mural had been made with more generic looking dogs that didn’t match her branding then the argument could better be made that it isn’t an advertisement. But as it is now, I think it clearly promotes her branding.

    And if the owner’s true intentions were simply to beautify the park, then I don’t see what the problem is with adding some sort of wording for Shirlington Dog Park. Seems like a very reasonable compromise to me.

    • Bluemont John

      Wow–I didn’t know that. I have to agree that is a very relevant point–maybe enough to make me change my mind. After all, the Ralph Lauren polo pony is just a horse–but if it were on a wall, you’d know what it was selling.

      This logo is way less well known–but maybe it’s well known to dog owners near there.

      OTOH–are those cartoon dogs actually unique to this business? The look sorta familiar. Are they from some kids’ book?

      • Rover

        Yes, but the Ralph Lauren polo pony is a trademark, legally representing the company. I seriously doubt the images on this mural are legal representations of the business. She just used the same artist, or one with a similar style. That is hardly a legal tie to the business.

        • Amanda

          But what the photos posted here also don’t show is that on one side of the mural is a back door for Wag More Dogs with their logo, business name, and tagline posted. As a dog owner and frequent visitor to Shirlington Dog Park, it’s pretty clear to me that the dogs in that mural are representing the business that is depicted on the door.

          • Rover

            It is a known who put up the mural. It can also be assumed why; to promote her business to dog owners. However, if the mural does not have her business name or trademark, I don’t see how it legally can be considered a sign for her business. This is a legal issue, not necessarily a motive issue. Surely she wants to promote her business. But, does the mural she had painted constitute a sign which may or may not be regulated fairly by Arlington, or does it constitute a piece of artwork on her place of business? If the later, Arlington likely will lose this lawsuit since they allow art but appear to be discriminating on the type of art being presented.

          • Amanda

            What if every Starbucks in the county painted espresso beans and coffee cups on the outside of the building? Neither of those are legally tied to Starbucks’ trademarked branding. Do you think that should be allowed?

            To me, the mural is clearly a sign for the business and I hope the county wins.

          • Jason S

            If Starbuck’s wants to put coffee beans on their buildings, let them. It doesn’t harm me. It might look ugly, but there are greater injustices to keep up as awake at night.

          • Rover

            Starbucks and every other business just put signs and posters up on the inside of their windows.

  • Clarendude

    This is an interesting case. I hope the court answers some of the questions that were asked on this blog about this issue – such as – is the problem that the images depicted are too close to what is sold in the store, for example if it were pink unicorns chasing martini glasses rather than puppies chasing bones – would that be OK?

    • http://www.arlnow.com ARLnow.com

      From a county perspective — yes, pink unicorns would have been permissible. From a legal perspective, the attorneys for Houghton are saying that such “content-based restriction on speech” is unconstitutional.

      • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

        Another IJ stunt. They’re going to lose, but hey, it’ll be good for the next fundraising letter.

      • Clarendude

        Well is it the depiction of the dogs or the bones or the dogs with the bones that is the problem for the County, I wonder. The store does not sell dogs but presumably sells bones like those depicted ?

        • Clarendude

          Responding to myself… I see from the website that the business is a dog day car/grooming and has no store (apparently). So, I guess anything that has a dog is not allowed according to zoning. Like any business that caters to people could not depict people in a mural.

      • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

        No, this isnt content based. This is a determination that it is commercial speech. The govt can decide “Is this commercial or not.” Looking at the content to determine that speech is related to the business is permitted.

        Having decided that it is commercial, a government has greater leeway to impose restrictions, such as zoning ordinances. Commercial speech gets lower first amendment protection than the rest of speech.

  • Jason S

    The county has over a billion dollars of debt, yet thinks this mural is worth attention. It’s just a mural to liven up the dog park. Can we keep things in perspective? Too many busybodies trying to create what they think is the best community by making everybody conform to what they like. Well, I don’t have dogs and thusly do not go to any dog parks (although I can help pay for them) and find this mural to be rather pleasant and of no harm to anybody.

  • jenn

    having been to the dog park, and not being familiar with this particular business… i wouldn’t have known the dogs were specific to the business if not for this article. i always just thought it was a mural… and included dogs… because it was a DOG PARK… goes to show how much i know, i guess.

  • Kit Kat

    I eagerly await Crystal City Restaurant creating a non-sign depicting nearly naked women.

  • give the dog a bone

    1.Ms Houghton commissionned the mural without ever checking to see if it was allowed.
    2. No board member has ever said they didn’t like the mural-just the opposite.
    3. If a complaint is made about the mural (as has been mentioned elsewhere), the County staff should take a look at it, and not just ignore it because they might like it.
    4. Yes, if she’s promoting the dog park, why not say so on it?
    5. If she’s concerned about the $, hiring a lawyer is not a way to save it.
    6. The County had come up with a resolution to the problem (the writing above it) but Ms. H evidently chose to take this route. This smacks more of self-advertising than anything else and (the dogs are clearly from her logo/artist).
    7. Personally, I really like the mural, and most of the other ones that have gone up in the County, but that doesn’t mean it’s OK to ignore or skirt the laws and then cry ‘foul’.
    8. Just because the County (most of the world, by the way) is having $ problems, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t follow up on illegal activities.

    • Rover

      1. How do you know this to be true? There is no language for her business, so she likely knew if there were it would be considered a SIGN and not allowed. But, murals apparently are allowed.

      3. Who complained?

      4. Because that would be an illigal sign!

      5. It is principal now.

      6. Yes, the county wants her to flip the bill for a “sign” for their dog park!

      • give the dog a bone

        1. I won’t reveal how I know, but as some sort of evidence I can offer, has she ever said she did? Also, I’m pretty sure murals are not automatically allowed, but don’t know for sure. however, there are lots of places/offices she could have asked first before having it painted, no matter what her business is (and what do you mean, “There is no language for her business”. Her business is not unique.
        3. That’s never made public, as far as I know. (It just opens the door for all sorts of retaliation.)
        4. It’s not illegal when the County offers that as an alternative.
        5. Right.
        6. C’mon–where else do you see signs for Arlington dog parks? That’s hardly something the County has ever pushed for–or needs.
        Signing off now.

  • SoCo Resident

    CONTRACTOR-HOME Builder SIGNS ARE TOTALLY ILLEGAL and A VIOLATION OF ZONING LAWS. Yet, County inspectors, visiting residential construction sites, completely ignore these violations even after complaints are made! But, they pounce on these small businesses – murals, sandwich signs, etc. How interesting that Zoning so irresponsibly “welcomes” expensive lawsuits which are settled at taxpayer expense! Time to fire some County officials AND STAFF! I can’t wait until this reaches a court.

    • Concerned

      Exactly: educate or fire some of the staff. The sign is nice and bothers nobody except the zoning people. Arlington should be more inviting to small businesses instead of forcing them out. However, SoCo Resident: please turn off your caps. It’s annoying.

      • SoCo Resident

        Caps are for anger — and it is obvious this story invokes anger.

    • Concerned

      I meant the mural, since it is not really a sign.

    • cj

      Which kinds of contractor signs are you talking about? The zoning ordinance specifically allows one temporary unlighted sign up to 4.5 square feet in size for a contractor, builder, etc. doing work at a site, including a home. These are allowed without a permit.

      • SoCo Resident

        CJ: You say signs of 4.5 square feet, i.e. very small, are allowed? GO MEASURE THE MANY ILLEGAL ONES THAT ZONING SO STUDIOUSLY IGNORES. Residential homebuilders such as Mickey Simpson, etc, regularly erect illegal signs, always ignored by zoning. $trange!

  • P.Henry

    When a government tries to dictate the content of a mural, without objecting to all murals, then the government has crossed the line in to impressible violation of the 1st Amendment. Any first year law student could identify the constitutional violation. Too bad the county lacks a competent county attorney.

    • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

      Except that’s not the objection here. The problem is that there’s a commercial sign. Are you saying that Arlington doesn’t have the capacity to regulate commercial signage? If that’s true, then, how is it that thousands of local govts across the country have successfully demonstrated authority to regulate commercial signs for a 100+ years? Bonus points for conveying your answer with the wit and wisdom of a 1L.

      • Common Sense

        The article states: “Had the mural depicted flowers or anything not dog-related, said county regulators, it would be permitted.” So the County does not object to all murals, but it does want to dictate the content of the mural. That behavior is not allowed by the 1st Amendment. Assuming the quote about allowing a flower mural is correct, then calling the mural a “sign” ignores that the County does want to control the content of murals. The County’s position is “it’s a sign when we say so,” but that will not save the County in front of a federal judge.

        • Maria

          No, if it was a mural depicting flowers, it would have nothing to do with her *business*… that’s why that type of mural would be okay and not considered a sign. The whole issue here is that the mural is essentially an advertisement for her business, which is purely dog-related. Yes, it seems a little hazy because it is located at a dog park where a mural with dogs makes perfect sense, but what if it was somewhere else? Would you really think she did it with purely aesthetic motives in mind?

        • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

          Bzzt. The initial test is whether it’s commercial speech or not. The dogs (which advertise/promote the business contained in the building) make it commercial speech. Which is subject to more regulation than the speech you or I are exercising here. See, e.g., reams of First Amendment jurisprudence.

          Also, points deducted for failing to emulate 1Ls. If you’d tried harder, you might have been able to overcome the points deducted for attempting to be an internet lawyer.

    • local

      Um, no. There is no constitutional violation here. The CONTENT of the mural is what made it commercial, and that made it illegal. And the court agreed.

      I agree that the county ought to allow this mural. I don’t agree that it is required to.

  • Maria

    I’m a rule-follower (boring, I know), so if she didn’t know or bother to find out about all the laws that apply to her business and the building it’s in, I don’t have much sympathy for her in this situation (and while I don’t know for sure of course, if the county is making this an issue now, I have to agree with “give the dog a bone” and express serious doubts that she checked with anyone before doing this). Besides, I am not an expert, but I would guess people can’t just paint humongous murals on buildings without some kind of approval from the county, so I’m not sure why this happened in the first place.

    Also, for those of you who are saying it should be allowed to stay because it is art and looks “nice” and whatnot, I’m curious if you would say the same if you thought it was ugly or poorly done? Where does one draw the line? I agree that perhaps the county is too strict about these things, but until the ordinances change – which it seems like might be in the works? – people need to either follow them or work to change them… or at least not complain when they caught not following them! This isn’t the civil rights movement… civil disobedience is unnecessary and kind of annoying.

    • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

      And this is the reasonable and well-considered approach, in my view. It’s not just the narrow question of the facts at hand – it’s a systemic issue.

      • Maria

        I may be misunderstanding you, but are you saying that suing the county for violating her “first amendment rights” is the reasonable and well-considered approach? As I said, I would generally agree (from the little I know about this) that the county is maybe too strict about this issue, but why are lawsuits so often considered the answer?

        It says in the article that the county is planning to rewrite the sign ordinances soon, so why can’t business owners who are unhappy with the current ordinances work with the county somehow to change them to something that works better for the businesses? You say it’s a systemic issue… well, there are ways to fix the system without lawsuits. It is easier said than done, obviously, but now it looks like a ton of money is going to get sucked into this lawsuit, and guess who gets to pay?

        • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

          I was calling your criticism the reasonable and well-considered approach, here. Few other people in the comments appear to recognize the larger issue at hand (and the IJ press release inspired story doesn’t really help that along).

          • Maria

            Okay good, I was hoping that’s what you meant :)

    • SoCo Resident

      So, does the building-sized Rockland’s mural on Washington Blvd comply? Clearly advertising.

      • Maria

        Fair point. However, while I obviously have no idea, I would suppose they went through the proper channels.

      • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

        So go look up the use permit and find out, brainiac.

        • Greg

          Dude, you like to whine about the participants and content on this site, but based on the tone of your posts you come across as the biggest tool here.

          I just wanted to let you know in case you weren’t aware that you need to chill.

          • http://blacknell.net/dynamic MB

            Right, I’m sorry. I’ll work on excitedly exclaiming that Arlington isn’t exactly how I want it to be, while demonstrating repeated and regular ignorance of the ways that I can change that. Maybe that’ll make you more comfortable? Because that’s exactly what I’m worried about, now.

    • Jason S

      What if the mural were ugly? Well, then it would be an ugly mural. I see plenty of ugly people walking down the street, but I can’t put a tarp over them.

  • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

    You have to remember. This isnt about this sign. This is about ALL signs. The government does not get to pick and choose which signs get to exist and which dont. That IS a violation of the First Amendment. What ever the policy is, it must be neutral across the board. Okay, you like this sign. But what about the one from the auto repair shop? What about the one from McDonalds. What about the one from the liquor store.

    Whatever it is, the government must apply the rules neutrally as to the speech. This is a sign posted by a commercial establishment. Okay, many people like it (I like it – I hope there is a solution – I love these murals). But the starting point is that it is a commercial sign and Arlington must apply its rules neutrally. Either all signs must conform to the rules, or ALL signs must be permitted.

    So change this discussion. Ask yourself not whether you want THIS sign. Ask yourself whether you want signs in generally.

    • Lou

      You seem so comfortable letting the government wield ridiculous powers. Oh, the signs! Helps us from signs, oh wise Government!

      • http://barlington.blogspot.com/ bArlington

        Actually, I said something completely different. My point is, whatever the rule is, it has to be applied across the board to all signs, and not just this one sign. A government can not be the judge and critic of content – it cannot accept this sign because it likes it, but not that sign. So what ever rules is at debate here, it is not a debate about this particular mural – it is a debate about whether the government should regulate the placement of commercial advertisements.

        But to your point, am I comfortable letting Arlington wield ridiculous power about sign placement – sure. I voted for them.
        * I am comfortable that sandwich board advertisements should not be place on government sidewalks. I am a pedestrian. I like to be able to get down sidewalks. On more than one occassion I have had to move those signs in order to do so.
        * I am comfortable with the fact that those Pizza $5 signs you see along the highway are illegal. They are ugly. They are a nuisance. Glad that the government which the citizens of Arlington voted for reflects those citizens view that we want roads not cluttered with pizza signs.
        * I am comfortable that it would be illegal for my neighbor to put up a billboard sign. Yip, that would be ugly and not in compliance with zoning.

        The act of governance is the act of a community coming together to elect officials the reflect the views of the governed. In Arlington, there is a stronger sense of a planned community. Unlike texas where these type of things would be okay (just stating a fact – I am really not dissing texas – what I am saying is different communities can make different choices) – in arlington we have chosen to have rules about signs. It makes for a more aesthetic community.

        I have to say, I love arlington. I think its a great place to live. One of the great things about Arlington is the murals. They can be great. Another thing that is great about Arlington is you are not constantly assaulted by commercial advertising.

        Yip, I like Arlington.

        • bArlington again?

          bArlington, you have 11 post on this page, quit bombarded the comments. You don’t need comment on everything, it is obnoxious. I can’t believe you admitted that you go around moving signs on sidewalks either, find something more constructive to do your time.

  • tammy

    She should remove it or put Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area. There are other businesses in the neighborhood that are pet care related. the park clearly drive a ton of traffic to the businesses in the block but this sign is specific, just for hers. It’s not fair with the other businesses even the one across the street. It is a full display of the wag more dogs and it is bringing tons of cash to her register. During a public hearing I don’t think other businesses owners could have mind because it is an industrial area, full of mechanic shops that don’t care about the noise but if you look on details this is about cash flow. When anybody decide to run a business should comply with permits and zoning regulations. if there was an intention of fixing the wall someone could have take care of the whole mural, not just their square of the wall, This is shutting down the opportunity of other entrepreneurs. No one is trying to shut down her business, she has a right to earn an honest living but we cannot monopolize a whole neighborhood for one person. Also they have call the board as bureaucrats when that’s not true, I saw the capitalism in that place when i first saw it and now displaying a pitiful attitude and saying that arlington is dulling the freedom of speech is just lame. there is support for the arlington zonning and planning, this is not south america, this is not South cental LA. if arlington allows just this, then they ll have to allow others, letting people place signs from light poles in front of their shops,propaganda is not art, it is advertising, that has nothing to do with freedom of speech.. there are regulations for commercial organizations Art it is more the graffiti across the street, neutral and non related to grooming or dogs. She shouldn’t be risking her business , she should try to follow what zoning and planning says. I gotta say it is a very thoughful marketing. there has to be an arbitrary decision from the board, it should. Beautifying could have been if she could have painted the whole mural from entrance to entrance, or none another thing i think they got ripped off, how is someone going to spend $4000 in a little bit of paint. they should admit, it is advertising and comply with the rules, be fair for everyone

  • Darwin

    Again the government is here to help small businesses!

  • Newt

    I just wish they would follow the rules of the dog park they are adjacent to and not walk 5-7 dogs at a time. None of which are very well behaved!

  • Dog Lover

    Let’s call a spade a spade. The owner had every intention of this sign advertising her business; she didn’t follow the rules all other small business owners have to follow – and she still doesn’t by allowing her staff in orange shirts to blanket the park with her marketing material and use the park to supplement her business by walking the dogs in the park.

    If she hadn’t put the same dogs in her logo, put her “Now open” sign on the back door with the same dogs, and actually done her homework prior to opening her location, then all this could be avoided. However much a pain in the butt the County can be (and they really are when it comes to running a small business) in this case they are absolutely correct – she’s making excuses and changing her story about her intentions and using this all to her advantage for publicity for her business.

    It was never about the mural and it “showing her passion for dogs” as she tearily claimed on the news this morning. By the way – is it legal to hold a press conference you arrange yourself in the Community Canine Area or is this just another example of how this business owner feels that our public parks are to be used to promote her business? Hope she got a permit for a public gathering in a public park. The rest of us do.

    • WMD

      The press conference was arranged by the Institute for Justice. Information about this mural, the owner’s intentions, the lawsuit and more is available on the Institute for Justice website. http://www.ij.org

      A mural of this size typically cost $10,000. The County is requiring that the lettering be 4 feet high and it would have taken two lines. That’s 8 feet of signage that would cost an additional $7,000. It’s a private wall not owned or maintained by Arlington county. It doesn’t matter that the dogs are like the dogs in the logo. No dogs are allowed at all, not anything dog related, no bones, no dog bowls, no paw prints in order for it not to be considered a sign. It’s a sign because it has dogs and it’s next to a dog business. Because they consider it a sign, it can only be 60 square feet according to the sign code, that’s why it has to to be covered up. There is no code for murals.

      Let’s say you have never heard of Wag More Dogs, you’re standing in the dog park and admiring the mural: What does the mural tell you?

      • dog tired

        You’re saying that 2 lines of writing will cost $3000 more than the whole mural cost ($4000)? I don’t think so.
        PLUS the fact that she had to put up an ugly tarp covering it is because the County offered her this temporary fix while they discussed the sign ordinance more. SO, for months the County has said they want to review the ordinance, and they offered the tarp as an alternative to painting over it. Sorry, they don’t sound that unreasonable to me (and they’ve been quoted as liking the mural).

      • Dog Lover

        Should have done your homework before you paid to have the mural painted for $4000 – isn’t that the number you used to say it cost for the mural? Now it’s “typically $10,000″.

        Still didn’t answer the question, did the business owner and/or the representatives get a permit? But I suppose that’s the not relevant when the ultimate goal is really just publicity and recognition. Sometimes some people will just use any avenue available for self-promotion.

        Do your homework first, if you don’t like the rules, work to change them – the justice system should be used for people who truly do the right thing FIRST – then end up on the short end of the stick. It shouldn’t be used by a small business owner who didn’t do the homework, and now doesn’t like any of the available options given to comply.

        The mural is nice, but clearly advertises the business and clearly was intended for such. Trying to position it as anything other than that (“…to show my passion for dogs…”) now so as to sway public opinion is disingenuous at best.

        • WMD

          There is no permit required for a mural so the owner didn’t get one, there isn’t one to get. The mural cost $4,000 which is less than what a mural of that size would normally cost. The artist gave the owner a break on the cost.

          Again, let’s say you have never heard of Wag More Dogs, you’re standing in the dog park and admiring the mural:

          What does the mural tell you?

          • Dog Lover

            Tells me that it looks like much like the logo and that it’s all about Wag More Dogs. That was the purpose and it still is and this is all about publicity.

            And, funny, even the news said the neighboring business actually took the time to comply with the code. All you have to do is ask the right questions, be polite and not belligerent and/or petulant and do the right thing.

            Running to a lawyer to drum up some lame lawsuit and wasting our tax money as the County has to defend itself is selfish and just flat out stupid. Do the right thing, stop squawking about how mean and unfair it all is. Stop justifying bad behavior and lack of expertise in opening a business and chalk it up to a learning experience – and do the right thing.

            Cover it up – you still have the APPROVED signage on the door to the LEFT of the mural.

        • Novanglus

          Diligent homework — whether she did it or not — would have told her that the mural is not a sign by the County’s stated definition. It provides neither identification, direction, nor information. Homework would have also revealed that there many businesses in the county who have murals on their buildings (including one in the same block) who never applied for a sign permit.

          • Doug

            The “murals” on The Muddy Mutt don’t have dogs or anything related to dogs on them. Therefore they are not doing anything to identify, direct, or inform the public of what they do. No sign: No permit needed.

  • Colbert Nation

    I have no vested interest in this issue. I do not live near the business nor do I have a dog. I do not care how the business is run. I like the painting and think it should remain. Let’s not forget that people and community are important and enforcing rules for rules sake without ever allowing for people to use common sense is sad. The painting does not advertise the business. The business’s name, logo, hours or prices are not part of the painting, so “implying” that the painting advertises the business is ridiculous. People, it is a painting of dogs next to a dog park. Woof!

    • Dog Lover

      Sorry Colbert Nation, but right smack in the middle of the painting is her door with her logo, including the same caricatures of dogs. It includes a big fat “Now Open” on it. Thus, the mural is a big fat expansion of the logo – not just a cute painting.

      • WMD

        The door is at the far left end of the mural if you’re facing it. That door sign is an actual sign and within the sign code. The Zoning Administrator allowed it AFTER she required the tarp to cover the mural.

        • Newt

          I go to the dog park 3 times a day and that mural is advertising!

  • Dog Lover

    Oh yes, and go to the hearings and work with the County to ensure it doesn’t happen to anyone else. THAT would be the right way to handle this. Not stooping to the level of engaging attorneys to file frivolous lawsuits that waste OUR tax money. Hope you like the next business personal property tax increase you’re likely to see…

  • Alex

    Overlooked by most of the comments here: Even if the mural is advertising, it’s still protected by the First Amendment. Yes, government can regulate time, manner, and place–but not content. The county told Wag More that the mural could be anything other than dogs. Thus, the county’s actions are ipso facto content-based discrimination, and that is not allowed under the First Amendment.

    • Frank

      Well then, if I were a lawyer, I would argue that this particular business owner can’t have it both ways. It’s either ART or commercial speech that one might construe to be fully protected under the First Amendment. Which one is it? Art or commercial speech? The owner said it was art to show her passion for dogs and she thought it would make it pretty for the dog park.

      Seriously, is that protected, or is it just the commercial advertising that’s protected? Or just because this owner wants it to be; it’s all protected and she should just get what she wants because she filed a lawsuit?

      • Alex

        Frank, if you were a lawyer, then you would realize that the distinction between art and commercial speech is not legally relevant. The Supreme Court says that both get the same protection. Doesn’t matter how it’s described outside the court. The lawsuit is aiming to have the underlying regulation ruled unconstitutional, not to carve out a special exemption for this one mural.

        • Frank

          Not a lawyer, but I thought the First Amendment protects free speech and that is what this all about – and as I’ve seen enough lawyers in action, what is legally relevant or not doesn’t always really matter does it? There is always a good reason for a lawsuit in a lawyer’s world.

          But regarding this one, wouldn’t it be nice if the true purpose of the lawsuit was for the good of the masses of small business owners beaten down by their local governments for painting large murals on the side of their leased buildings?

          Wouldn’t it be nice if it were a class action lawsuit on behalf of all small business owners everywhere who have been negatively affected by the underlying regulation?

          I am absolutely not a big fan of Arlington County’s micromanagement, but a lawsuit to keep artwork to make the park pretty, or an advertisement that doesn’t conform with what our elected helped approve…..come on….what’s the real reason and what’s the true purpose of the mural Mrs. Small Business Owner?

          If you vote the boneheads in and allow them to continue to employ people who make the stupid rules for “comprehensive sign plans”, then you have no one to blame but yourself and I agree with some others on here…

          Get over it, stop wasting our tax money and either paint over it or add the lettering – if it truly was such an altruistic endeavor as the business owner claims one day, but not the next, but then does again, then there shouldn’t be a problem? Shoot, why not just use the publicity to raise funds to help paint the letters on the mural – or better yet, you could probably get some art students to help for free.

          Oh, but then the publicity from the lawsuit wouldn’t occur would it?

          • BB

            Wag More Dogs gets enough publicity through their outstanding location right on the dog park.

            Why not contact the owner of Wag More Dogs and ask her yourself about all of this and stop speculating?

        • local

          Um, what?

          You’re clearly not a lawyer, because that’s completely false. Commercial speech has a lower level of protection.

    • Doug

      I disagree and must point out Kit Kat’s fantasy of CCR painting a “mural” on the side of their building: Are you saying that would not be considered a sign? Do you not think that would cause some discussion? Would you think that would be protected under the 1st Amendment or would you switch sides and say the County has every right to enforce the sign code? I think what WMD is trying to do is confuse the issue and cause an uproar that will, in their minds (and hopefully in the minds of the general public) hide the FACT that they have a huge ass sign on their building, because: dogs are cute— It’s easier for folks to get up in arms and ignore the facts when you’re looking at cute dogs. I assure you Alex that people would change sides pretty quickly if they found the “mural” in bad taste. WMG made a $4K mistake and they know it. This is not a matter of free speech; just as not being allowed to paint my house pink if I agree to purchase a home in an HOA is not a matter of free speech. If you want to paint your house pink, you don’t buy a house in an HOA. If you want a big picture of dogs on your dog business, find a jurisdiction that allows that. In my opinion, all they’re trying to do is get publicity, at my expense (and yours) that may help recoup the cost of their mistake. I also don’t buy that it would cost $7K to add the verbiage the County came up with as a compromise. Do you?

  • Doug

    Just to be clear: My disagreement was with Alex, not with Frank- He and Dog Lover (as have a few others on this forum) seemed to have hit the nail on the head: NOT an issue of Free Speech, but an issue of Jurisdictional Regulations that you research BEFORE you pay $4K for Anything

  • Dirty Dog

    I’ll leave the constitutional debate to the esquires… However, I would like to offer a possibly (too) simplistic solution;
    One that I think all parties could easily live with: all of the business neighbors backing the park could get together and come to an agreement, they could use one another’s buildings as Their canvas… For example, if Main Event Caterering or the Storage place or the Auto body place would allow a “mural” of one of their neighbors, e.g. WMG puts a catering mural on their building and Main Event puts a dog mural on theirs and so on and so on all the way down the Park. I’m sure there are artists out there who would jump at the idea for just the price of paint!
    Seems to me everybody Wins:

    The citizen park goer benefit: Park beautification–something to look at other than plain ugly cinder block walls
    Commercial businesses benefit: Advertising,—yes, I do believe it would be advertising— just not on their business—not violating any ordinances—No permit required
    The County benefit: nobody is doing anything wrong and everybody is happy ☺
    The Artistic community benefit: having another outlet to display their work
    Freedom of Speech not trampled upon

    I’m just sayin’

    • Frank

      Dirty Dog – what a great idea! Again, a solution that doesn’t involve a lawsuit wasting your money and mine. Too bad that the business owner at Wag More Dogs was less inclined to think “out of the box” than you – and to run crying like a baby to a lawyer who had to think really, really hard to find something they could sue for……

      Free speech my behind….again, I agree with others….sue when you’ve done the right thing and really, truly have been disenfranchised or experienced some significant loss due to overzealous and unfair practices. None of those things apply here; she opened up when her building was completed, check the facts. If you pay attention to what she’s said in the past, you’ll see that it’s changed just a little bit on any given day….. Everybody else who owns a small business has tried to do the right thing, whether initially or not – they have ultimately complied….and trust me, this one particular new business owner is in no way smarter or more business savvy than all the others in Arlington who have done the right thing….so get a clue and figure it out without wasting our money on a frivolous lawsuit.

      If you really had a passion for dogs, you’d be spending your time and money on ensuring all dogs had a happy home and to educate those who don’t treat animals with a modicum of respect. So this leads one to believe, what is your real motivation? Oh, that’s right….TV coverage! And new clients who will feel sorry for you because you’re such the victim of the big meanie, Arlington County Government permit police.

      Playing the victim only works for a very short period of time. For us old folks, remember the “15 minutes of fame”? It’s coming to a close. Then it will just be a joke.

  • Pingback: Business owner barks back after dog mural censored – BusinessWeek | It's a Dog's Blog

  • FedUp

    I walked by the Shirlington dog park today and saw the blue tarp. It’s ugly. The mural looked good in a not so good looking area of South Arlington. I’d say “fire the zoning administrator”. She does work for us taxpayers, doesn’t she?

  • gettalife

    This PC Liberal Arlington BS has got to be the biggest waste of time I have ever heard of, not to mention an absolute waste of our tax dollars. Lets make the entire county sterile and while they are at it make the Westover beer garden paint over the beer drinking dog murals off their building, I’m offended having to look at it while I walk to the post office. And another thing, way to many cupcakes are being brought to school celebrating every kids birthday! That means my child will have 22 cupcakes in one year….heavens. Until we eliminate open seat elections in this county common sense will be vacant and the everyone is a winner mentality will continue.

    • local

      You’d make alot more sense if you dropped your idiotic political buzzwords.

  • Dogdude

    The county has gotten itself into another ridiculous lawsuit with your tax dollars. This board needs to be held accountable. Arlingtonian’s need to wise up and get these people out of office.

    • borf

      The county didn’t file this suit.

      Should it just capitulate every time someone files a suit against it?

  • BarbinArlington

    Arlington has capitulated to dog owners in many ways, including not policing places where dog walkers take dogs and where the walkers leave the dog detritus without picking it up. So asking a commercial establishment not to take advantage of a facility the county provides is a huge surprise to me. I hope the county wins on this one.

  • Alan

    The Arlington County Board needs to fire Ms. Artman before she cost the taxpayers of this county millions more dollars!
    It is not here money, its ours! Let her pay for the lawsuit!
    The Board needs to wake up before its too late.
    This is not a sign in any way, shape or form!
    The Arlington County Board should thank her!
    These are tough economic times for some of us!
    God bless this woman for her bravery!
    This used to be a great place to live, it going down hill fast with the likes of Artman working here. she doesn’t deserve to be here!

    • borf

      I love exclamation points!

  • http://www.theaporetic.com MIke O’Malley

    This seems like nonsense to me–did people in the dogpark ask her to paint the sign? no. did the neighbors? No. It’s a big ad for her business, and she’s trying to palm it of as some kind of example of civic-mindedness.

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