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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.
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.
I find this mother’s prejudice against people with disabilities especially egregious. She wants her daughter to visit with the Santa for “normal” kids, not the Santa for the nasty, unclean disabled kids. If her daughter is disabled enough to require a setvice dog, then she is by definition a disabled kid. How about rallying for inclusion for every disabled kid instead of making them a separate, lesser group? It’s this narrow attitude and outright prejudice that hurts all disabled people.
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.
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.
If the mall Santa was as violently allergic as you describe your grandson to be, he would have been unqualified for the job. The job requires him to be able to touch multiple children whose clothes and hands will have multiple allergens not excluding the dander of various animals and peanut dust. Someone who suffers anaphylactic reactions to trace amounts/short term exposure to very common allergens would never take that type of job. I sympathisize with your grandson and hope his allergies get less severe as he gets older but if they don’t, he will have to avoid situations where he would have to touch hundreds of random strangers a day.