Arlington, Va.—The federal courts failed to protect the free speech rights of Arlington, Va., entrepreneur Kim Houghton, owner of Wag More Dogs canine boarding and grooming facility, and so at noon on Tuesday, September 25, 2012, she will be forced to take down the tarp that now covers her playful mural of cartoon dogs and bones, and cover it up with an entirely new image that in no way has anything to do with her business. The tarp will come down at noon and the mural will be covered over with a new image.
Houghton said, “I’m very sad to not be able to keep a mural that was truly my expression of my love of dogs and this park in particular. I am proud and happy to have been able to have the Institute for Justice’s support to fight the good fight for free speech, to ensure that all citizens are able to freely express themselves.”
Robert Frommer, the lead attorney on the case, said, “Arlington County has ordered Wag More Dogs to paint over its mural because it depicts dogs instead of dragons or ponies. But government sign laws should protect public health and safety, not let government officials play art critic. What Arlington County is doing to Wag More Dogs and other Arlington small businesses is just plain wrong.”
Frommer said, “Wag More Dogs fought valiantly for almost two years to keep its artwork. The courts, however, ruled against this small business and, in so doing, created a troubling precedent that threatens the free speech rights of all Americans. The Institute for Justice will keep fighting nationwide to establish a rule of law that protects freedom of speech for Wag More Dogs and other small businesses.”
Houghton continued, “Although I am disappointed that the community will lose a mural that many seemed to enjoy, I am excited about the new one. The new mural is being done by two amazing artists who are walking symbols of free expression. They drive this wonderful RV all covered with crazy images and art. They have a truly unique and creative image that will be the new mural and I’m excited for this new artistic expression to be revealed.” The new mural will feature large trees that are also sky scrapers with a giant colorful bird in the branches.
Houghton concluded, “Although we lost this case, I think we really won in the end. We made tremendous gains in increasing awareness of this important right and how precious it is and how easily government can take it away. I’m grateful for groups like IJ that come to the aid of the people like me.”