Dogs & Laws

Mall Santa Turns Away Little Girl and Service Dog

After waiting in the long line to meet jolly ol’ Saint Nick, a young girl and her service dog were turned away by the mall Santa.

mall santa

A visit to meet Santa at New Hampshire’s Nashua Pheasant Lane Mall should have been a highlight of one little girl’s holiday season. Instead, the “man in red” told the girl to leave because of Romeo, her service dog.

Jill Twigg took her daughter Olivia to meet the mall Santa on Black Friday. After waiting in line, all dressed up and excited for the occasion, Santa refused to allow Olivia’s service dog to enter the photo area.

Romeo is a highly trained seizure alert service dog who goes everywhere with Olivia, who lives with Rett syndrome and suffers from seizures. The family did not expect Romeo to be in the photograph or touch the mall Santa, but needed him to stay close enough to keep a watchful eye on his little girl.

But, the mall Santa, who is allergic to dogs, refused to allow Romeo anywhere near the photo set. The family were told to return on Pet Day or for a scheduled special needs event. But, as Olivia’s mother asserted – not only is turning the family away illegal according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, Jill wants her daughter to lead a normal life.

“I don’t want to take her to Caring Santa. I want her to have a normal experience. She’s on a normal cheerleading team with normal children. We want to make sure she feels completely comfortable going wherever she wants at whatever time she wants,” she told WBZ.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, allergies are not a valid reason for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.

Cherry Hill Programs, who provides the mall Santa experience for Pheasant Lane Mall, said they have a clear protocol that welcomes all service dogs. They’ve reached out to the family and hope to have Santa make a special appearance at the Twiggs’ home.




  1. Max

    Nov 27, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    As a dog lover & admirer of service dogs, I sympathize with the young lady. BUT I have a grandson so violently allergic to many things including dogs & even short term exposure causes him to break in hives & develop breathing problems. It is not reasonable to force an allergic person to get close to what causes possibly dangerous reactions.

    • Bessie Potter

      Nov 28, 2017 at 1:52 pm

      Unfortunately there are those that claim allergy to excuse their behavior. My neighbor was fired from a job for that very reason. He said he was when he wasn’t. This malls policy does not allow allergy as an excuse. Near me the mall also does not allow that excuse without a written statement from an allergist. Sadly the liars have made it harder on all. Fake service dogs, fake injuries, so the disabled are often treated with disdain. It is sad this happened. Our society is in a moral crisis.Which is sadder yet.

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