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Dog owner's billboard gambit hits a wall

An Ohio woman had hoped to get her dog on 'The Ellen Degeneres Show' by renting a huge sign in the Cahuenga Pass. But the talk show host didn't bite.

February 23, 2012|By Bob Pool, Los Angeles Times
  • Madalyn Ruggiero paid $6,000 to put Denali's image on a billboard. But CBS Outdoor lawyers thought Denali's outfit looked too much like the type of clothes worn by Ellen Degeneres.
Madalyn Ruggiero paid $6,000 to put Denali's image on a billboard.… (Madelyn Ruggiero )

It's a howling shame.

An Ohio woman who had hoped to get her dog on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" has been ordered to remove a Cahuenga Pass billboard that pictures her pooch in a blond wig with the message, "Ellen, Denali the Dog Wants to Meet You."

Madalyn Ruggiero, a freelance photographer who dresses her golden retriever in funny costumes and sells the images as greeting cards, had rented the billboard for six weeks.

But instead of getting a phone call to appear on DeGeneres' show, Ruggiero got word from the billboard company that her ad had to come down after only five days.

The offending promotion showed Denali wearing a white dress shirt and necktie, a plaid sport jacket with upturned collar and a blond wig resembling DeGeneres' hairstyle.

"She says she likes dogs, so I thought she'd love my dog," Ruggiero said.

That wasn't the reaction of a billboard company lawyer, however.

"Our CBS Outdoor attorney has advised that we take down the Denali The Dog bulletinĀ ASAP due to the fact that the clothes the dog is wearing in the copy and the use of the name Ellen appears that they are trying to trade on the public image of Ellen DeGeneres," wrote Tim Fox, director of governmental affairs for CBS Outdoor.

Fox noted that the billboard campaign was stopped "at the demand of the representatives of Ms. DeGeneres and her show."

Melissa Little Padgitt, publicist for DeGeneres' show, said she was unaware of the billboard controversy. The show is taped at Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank.

The disputed ad, posted at the intersection of Cahuenga Boulevard West and Broadlawn Drive, was replaced with a public service message for the Marine Corps.

Ruggiero, 37, of Maumee, Ohio, said she paid $6,000 for the billboard.

"I was going to use a picture of Denali as Elvis, but the billboard guys said to dress him like Ellen and it would get him on the show," Ruggiero said. Based on that conversation, Ruggiero sketched out an ad and provided the photograph of Denali and the text.

CBS Outdoor salesman Saul Aguilar told Ruggiero that he would attempt to get at least a partial refund for the billboard.

"However, I will do everything in my power to help you get the dog on Ellen's show," he pledged.

This is not the first canine kerfuffle to involve DeGeneres' show.

In 2007, DeGeneres adopted a Brussels Griffon terrier mix from a Pasadena pet rescue group. When the dog, named Iggy, did not get along with DeGeneres' cats, she and partner Portia de Rossi gave the animal to DeGeneres' hairstylist.

But when the rescue group found out, they said that giving the dog away violated their contract with the talk show host, and they confiscated Iggy from hairdresser Cheryl Marks.

At the time, an angry DeGeneres made it clear to her TV audience that she didn't want that dog gone.

bob.pool@latimes.com

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