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.