VIRGINIA

Arlington dog mural taken down

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It might look like any other mural, but Arlington County says this image is an advertisement.

Two years ago, Kim Houghton paid an artist to paint a mural of dancing dogs behind her dog care business.

"I had this beautiful wall and I'd been coming to this dog park for ten years and I thought I'd put some beautiful dogs up there and give back to the park,” Houghton, owner of Wag More Dogs, says.

The county reacted fast, and said Houghton “put up a commercial mural meant to advertise her business, the size of which far exceeded what was allowable under the county sign ordinance."

Houghton admits it's related to her business, but never meant the art to be an ad and took a lawsuit to federal court, where in may the court ruled in favor of the county.

“This case is a perfect example of why people's rights to free speech are so important and so fragile,” says Robert Frommer, Institute for Justice attorney who took on the case pro bono.

Residents like Valerie Troaino don't understand it.

"I just thought it was some artwork similar to you know the paintings on the other buildings along this park,” she says.

The original mural cost Houghton $4,000, and now she has to pay for another piece of art. But she says even after all of the artist expenses and the legal struggle, she'd do it all over again.

"I learned a lot about free speech, and we raised a lot of awareness,” she says. “That to me is worth more than $4,000.”

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