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Constitutional Law

Fed’l Appeals Court Says Sign Law Applies to Dog Kennel’s Mural, Calls Claimed Artwork Advertising

Posted May 29, 2012 2:37 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Is a mural featuring dogs on the exterior of a commercial building a sign subject to standard business zoning requirements or a work of art?

It depends on the subject matter, according to a federal appeals court opinion last week. But because the mural at issue featured cartoon canines from the business logo for the dog day care center Wag More Dogs, and the Virginia establishment clearly "had an economic motivation for displaying the painting," the work fell into the category of commercial speech subject to intermediate scrutiny, explained the Richmond, Va.-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in its opinion (PDF).

Apparently, a stronger argument might also have been made for the mural as an artwork in the Arlington County case by focusing on its noncommercial qualities: "Wag More Dogs alleged in its complaint that the painting was meant to attract customers from the nearby dog park, which is tantamount to conceding that it was advertising," the appellate court notes.

Hat tip: Courthouse News.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "ACLU Backs Florida Bait Shop Ticketed for Displaying US Constitution"

ABAJournal.com: "Car Dealership Retains Counsel to Fight $143 Ticket for Flying 11 American Flags"

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