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Dog Groomer Takes Arlington County To Court Over Mural

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The mural was completed in May 2010 by local artist Mark Gutierrez.
Institute for Justice
The mural was completed in May 2010 by local artist Mark Gutierrez.

In Virginia, a small business owner is taking Arlington county to federal court.

She says the county is forcing her to cover or take down a mural on the wall of her store, and violating her free speech rights.

Kim Houghton, the owner of Wag More Dogs Grooming, says she commissioned the 16-by-60-foot mural on the outside wall of her store simply because she thought dog owners using the adjacent dog park could do with some nice scenery.

The mural depicts cartoon dogs chasing bones.

"I was very excited to paint the mural as an expression of my passion for dogs -- and as a goodwill gesture for the folks in the dog park," Houghton says.

The county says the mural is a commercial sign that violates a county ordinance, because it's too large.

Mike Larmie walks his dog in the park every weekend. He doesn't think the mural qualifies as advertising.

"I see no problem with it. Actually, it's pretty nice for the dog park. It actually brings better scenery to the area," he says.

Joahan Amaya has a different view -- perhaps because he owns a dog-related business himself. He's a dog-walker.

"Me as a dog owner -- I think it's cool. But me as a business owner? It's competition," Amaya says.

The mural is currently covered with a blue tarp -- a condition of Houghton's occupancy certificate with the county.

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