California – A shopping mall in Southern California has apologized to a young girl with autism and her family after she was refused access to see Santa because he was allegedly afraid of the little girl’s service dog.
Abcde Santos had been waiting in line at Mission Viejo with Pup-Cake, her service dog for half an hour when she was turned away because the man playing Santa was afraid of the pit bull.
Julie Miller who is a family friend told abc 7 Eyewitness news that Pup-Cake is a trained service dog who accompanies the little girl everywhere.
“A service animal is a highly trained companion to an individual and the breed is secondary. The Americans with Disabilities Act gives an individual with a disability the right to have their companion and service animal with them to do the job that they’re trained to do.”
The Shops at Mission Viejo responded promptly after the family complained and posted onto its Facebook page:
“We do not condone the behavior displayed by Santa and have worked with our partners at Noerr, the company that hires our Santas, to replace this Santa with one that is more compassionate to our guests’ needs,”
They then further added:
“We look forward to welcoming back the Santos family and Pup-Cake for a special Santa experience.”
They issued an immediate response yesterday that included:
“Santa and the Elf have subsequently been fired. We are thankful that they reached out to us as soon as they learned of the incident and this was handled in a swift and appropriate manner.”
In a response on the Pup-Cake the Service Dog page, it states:
“Thank you all for your support.
As always my packs goal is education and equality for those with [dis]abilities. I am beyond grateful that the Management Team at the “Shops at Mission Viejo” and “Noerr” share in this goal. Their eagerness to resolve the situation, ensure proper training is in place and silencing an “elf” that has been proven dishonest by all parties involved shows just that. As a team we were able to ensure that going forward the Christmas wishes of ALL children are treated equally!
A big woof to you all for being a part of that team!”
The original article on the abc 7 Eyewitness News website can be found here