Home Budget, Economy Washington Post Rips Arlington’s “Hounding” of Business

Washington Post Rips Arlington’s “Hounding” of Business


Arlington County’s had quite a year for harassing local businesses, from  Screwtop & Bakeshop in Clarendon to Westover Market Beer Garden. Well now one business owner is fighting back: Kim Houghton of Wag More Dogs is taking the county to federal court over its ludicrous war on her dog mural.

Today, you can add the Washington Post to those who think Arlington County has gone too far:

Arlington officials argue that the mural promotes the canine boarding and grooming facility run by Ms. Houghton, a former ad executive for The Washington Post. It’s only fair to other dog businesses, they say, that she conform to the rules. But the county undercut its own argument when it suggested Ms. Houghton add the wording, in 4-foot-high letters, “Welcome to Shirlington Park’s Community Canine Area,” which in effect would co-opt the mural into a sign for the county. Ms. Houghton balked at the estimated cost of $7,000; the mural had already cost her $4,000, and she had put another $150,000 into starting the business.

Instead, she filed suit in federal court with the help of the Institute for Justice, a civil liberties law firm. The suit argues Ms. Houghton’s First Amendment right to express herself through art is being abridged. And it notes that there would not have been a problem if the mural depicted flowers, dragons or ponies instead of dogs. The absurdity that reveals should cause Arlington residents to wonder about their government’s grasp of common sense.

“We have to enforce our sign ordinance fairly,” county spokesman Mary Curtius had told a Post reporter. Which I guess is is true — lately, Arlington County has treated all businesses with equal absurdity.

  • Catzmaw

    I can’t complain most of the time.  I love the County and its wonderful amenities – great trash and leaf collection services, low cost fitness memberships, well-planned parks and recreation facilities, and outstanding services for Seniors, teens, and immigrant groups.  Yes, it’s a terrific place to live … but … buried somewhere within the Arlington Way is this little twist, the overzealous enforcement of certain rules and regulations.  Sometimes you see something like this and wonder where the hell basic common sense got to.  I’ve seen this in some Code enforcement cases.  

    This adorable mural is in an area not far from the grittier, industrial (such as it is) part of Arlington; the car repair places and the cement plant and the storage places.  These places are necessary, too, but they’re not pretty or fun to look at.  The mural, on the other hand, is a whimsical reminder of why it’s fun to have a dog.  Even though I often pass Wag More Dogs on my daily rounds, until this “controversy” arose I didn’t even know the mural was related to the business.  If that’s the case, then where’s the “promotion” of Ms. Hough’s business?  All it looked like to me was that the business might have hired the artist who painted the mural.  To me they were not related at all until I learned of this suit.

    My advice to Arlington?  For crying out loud, find something else to go to war over.

  • …on this one. Sorry, but this dog don’t hunt. OK, enough dog puns, just spay and/or neuter this policy and leave “Wag More” alone. If not, it might just be time to “release the hounds” on the Arlington County officials who came up with this “dog” of a policy! 🙂

  • jack hughes

    Unfortunately, the zoning administrator has a bit of a rep as a hard-ass, which was known in Loudoun before she came to Arlington.  This whole thing is embarassing.

  • Tom

    Just because they are fortunate enough to have a large Dem. majority  doesn’t necessarily mean they are well governed.

    And I don’t think changing the form of government would make much difference if the same people keep making the wrong decisions.

    Why doesn’t BV offer some very specific ideas about how to correct the absurd regulations that make no sense at all ? Thye seem to be almost as abitrary and dicatorial as was the City of Manassas when they tried to shut down the 9500 Liberty wall political statements, and this is not even a political statement – just a beautiful mural with pictures of beautiful dogs, not even an ad for their business. There is nothing wrong with a business painting an inoffensive mural on the back side of their building no matter how large the wall is even if it does advertise their business. For the county to even think of telling the business owner that it would be “esthetically o.k.” if they would just advertise the public park that happens to be behind their building is clearly illegal and horribly unethical – if the county wants to advertise they could at least pay the owner for the public park add instead of trying to coerce them into giving free ad space.

    What gall these county officials have. As bad as my PWC BOCS supervisors have been, at least they have a good enough legal counsel and good enough sense not to try to pull a stunt like this.Is it possible that a predominantly Dem. county might be their own worst enemies ? How do these people keep getting elected, and why do they tolerate zoning officials who do such idiotic things ?

    In the interest of full disclose, I am very much a dog lover, having a nine-year female black lab named Lacy who is a Therapy Dog, so I fully understand how very important a dog can be to our general well-being, mental health and overall sanity. It seems clear to me that the people in Arlington County government need someone like a good dog to help them restore their sanity. Jim Webb benefited from my dog’s therapy in 2006 and so could they.

  • wagmoredogs

    The first hearing on the dog park mural will be on Jan. 21st at 10am.  We invite all those interested in this case and in saving the mural to attend. Please email me at kim@wagmoredogs.com for more details

  • wagmoredogs

    The first hearing on the dog park mural will be on Jan. 21st at 10am.  We invite all those interested in this case and in saving the mural to attend. Please email me at kim@wagmoredogs.com for more details