Rats!

Escalating attrition rates, funding woes, a decline in new members ... these are just some of the issues facing many club owners today. But owners of a Gold's Gym in Lawrence, NJ, have a new one for the list – a 10-foot tall inflatable rat.

During a protest by an electrical workers' union, the outside of the Gold's Gym facility was graced by a large rat balloon, a.k.a. Scabby the Rat.

The New Jersey Supreme Court ruled Thursday that the union had a right to use the rat balloon under free speech protection, even though local ordinances banned the use of inflatable signs. The court found that the ordinance wasn't content-neutral because it allows businesses to use inflatables for grand opening events.

Scabby first made his appearance at Gold's Gym in 2005, when Local 269 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers protested outside the club because of a dispute with a contractor working at the gym. A union protester received a summons for reinflating the rat after local police ordered it to be deflated. Visit the CNN Web site to read more about the case and to view a likeness of Scabby.

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