Kim Houghton, the owner of Wag More Dogs (2606 S. Oxford Street), sued Arlington County after zoning officials declared her store’s mural of dogs, bones and paw prints — which faces the Shirlington dog park — to be a form of commercial speech and in violation of the county’s sign ordinance. U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema dismissed the lawsuit today “with prejudice.”
Undeterred, Houghton vowed to keep fighting.
“We’re going to appeal,” she said when reached by phone at her store this afternoon. “I am disappointed, but it’s not over yet.”
In the suit, Houghton said her mural was a piece of art that was beautifying the park. She objected to the county’s suggestion that the mural could be preserved if she added the words “Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area.”
“I think that once against the county is just seeking to take my mural and make it into an informational sign for themselves,” she said this afternoon. “I’m hopeful that we’ll win on appeal… let the games begin, let’s see what happens.”
More from the county press release:
ARLINGTON, Va. – United States District Court Judge Leonie M. Brinkema, for Virginia’s Eastern District, today dismissed with prejudice the lawsuit brought by Wag More Dogs, an Arlington dog day care and pet grooming business, and its owner, challenging Arlington County’s sign ordinance.
“We are pleased that the judge agreed with Arlington that this issue was about advertising, and that she found the County’s sign ordinance to be fair and reasonable,” said Asst. County Attorney Carol McCoskrie.
Wag More Dogs owner Kim Houghton had filed suit against the County late last year, alleging that it had violated her First Amendment right of free speech in finding that a mural she had commissioned for an outside wall of her business violated Arlington’s sign ordinance.
Houghton had sought an injunction against the County, seeking to have the Court order the County to let Houghton remove a tarp the County had required she place over the mural.
The County argued that Houghton’s case had no merit because the County has the authority to regulate commercial signs and that Houghton had not proven that the sign ordinance discriminates based on content.
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.”
Judge Brinkema said that “even taking all of the facts alleged by plaintiff as true, plaintiff’s Complaint states no plausible First Amendment violation under governing precedent.” She dismissed the case “with prejudice,” meaning that the owner of Wag More Dogs will need to appeal the ruling if she wishes to further pursue its claim.
Tour the secluded and quiet Bellevue Forest with its local parks, trails, forested areas and more in Neighborhood Spotlight.
In loving memory of William Dinwiddie Tucker, who passed away in 2023 at the age of 95.
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Meeting for lunch? Starting Monday, January 30 and running until Friday, February 3, Copperwood Tavern, The Pinemoor, and Brass Rabbit Pub will be offering buy one, get one free soups, salads, sandwiches, and…
St. Charles offers a play-based curriculum in a welcoming, Christ-centered environment.
Our program focuses on socio-emotional development and kindergarten readiness through hands-on and engaging activities. Our programs offer different schedules ranging from 7:30 am-5:30 pm for students, ages 2-5. We feature a full-day Jr. kindergarten class for older 4’s/5’s. Our facility includes a full-sized gymnasium, school chapel, and library. All of our students enjoy music and physical education weekly. Children have an opportunity to participate in enrichment classes such as soccer, basketball, ballet, and science.
We offer Summer Camp with weekly themes and twice a week water play, including Fun Friday moon bounce. Please join us for our Open House Feb. 3 at 9:30 am and 11:00 am. Click here to sign-up.
For more information or to schedule a tour, visit us at www.stcharlesarlington.org or call (703) 527-0608.
If you are a lifelong learner over 50+ who wants to make new friends, power up your brain, and enjoy a wide-variety college-level courses, Encore Learning is for you. An Arlington based nonprofit, Encore Learning offers courses in the arts, theater, literature, history, technology and more. This semester we offer our most popular course, Global Hot Spots as well as 25 new courses. Courses are presented either online or in-person at George Mason University at Virginia Square and other Arlington locations.
Join the free presentation to learn about courses and meet the instructors. This is Encore Learning’s signature event to highlight the upcoming semester with brief presentations by each instructor.
The Spring Course Preview event is Thursday, February 2nd at 9:30 AM via Zoom:
The truth, your first pregnancy and new mom months are full of twists and turns, ups and downs, and lots of questions! None of us really know the best way to do it – we just figure it out, together…