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Wag More Dogs Seeks Appeal of Mural Lawsuit

An Arlington dog grooming and boarding business is asking a federal appeals court to consider whether Arlington County’s sign ordinance is constitutional.

In February, a U.S. District Court Judge dismissed a lawsuit against Arlington County filed by Wag More Dogs (2606 S. Oxford Street). With the assistance of the the Institute for Justice, a Ballston-based libertarian public interest law firm, Wag More Dogs owner Kim Houghton had claimed that the county’s crackdown on the store’s colorful wall mural, which faced the Shirlington dog park, was unconstitutional.

Today, Houghton and the Institute for Justice announced that they have asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit to take the case — which revolves around the method by which Arlington County decides what is ‘art’ and what is an impermissible commercial sign.

“The U.S. Constitution gives everyone the right to speak and the right to earn an honest living,” said Robert Frommer, the attorney who’s representing Wag More Dogs. “Kim is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals to vindicate both of these rights and let her share her artwork with the dog park once again.”

The appeals court will now decide whether to hear the case.

Update at 6:40 p.m. — Arlington County Attorney Steven MacIsaac has released a statement about the appeal.

In February, the U.S. District Court agreed with Arlington that this issue is about commercial sign regulation, and the judge found Arlington’s sign ordinance to be fair and reasonable. In her ruling, Judge Binkema said that the mural is a “classic form of branding and advertising,” and meets the definition of a sign , which is, therefore, subject to the County’s sign ordinance. 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.”

We are aware that the owner has filed an appeal to the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and has just now filed her brief. We will now file our response in accord with court rules.

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