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Dog in Ellen DeGeneres costume gets booted from L.A. billboard

February 22, 2012 |  1:30 pm

It’s a howling shame.

An Ohio woman who hoped to get her pet 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. 

Me.denali.dog2But instead of getting a phone call to appear on DeGeneres’ show, Ruggerio 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 sports jacket with upturned collar, and a blond wig reminiscent of DeGeneres’ own 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 bulletin 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 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 program tapes at Warner Bros. Studios.

The disputed ad, posted at 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, Ruggerio sketched out an ad, and provided the photograph of Denali and the text.

CBS Outdoor salesman Saul Aguilar told Ruggiero he will 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 it violated their contract with the talk show host, and they confiscated Iggy from hairdresser Cheryl Marks.


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Photo: Denali the dog. Credit: Madalyn Ruggiero