Santa Turns Away Autistic Girl, Service Dog
A Santa Claus’s dislike for Pit Bulls leaves a little girl crying.
Cari Jorgensen |
Posted: December 3, 2014, 10 a.m. PST
Have you taken your child to see Santa Claus yet? Some kids get so excited at the chance to meet him and tell him what he wants. Others are terribly scared and want nothing to do with him. And still others, such as 7-year-old Abcde (pronounced Ab-suh-dee) Santos wanted nothing more than to meet Santa and ask him what he wanted so that she could make it for him.
The little girl waited in line at The Shops at Mission Viejo last weekend for 30 minutes. That may not seem like a long time, but it is when the child is autistic. "The fact that Abcde was able to wait in line for 30 minutes was something that was to be highly celebrated,” Santos family friend Julie Miller told ABC. "Any person who has a child on the spectrum would look at that and think ‘Wow.’”
But the celebration of her accomplishment was cut short when Santa refused to see Abcde apparently because of her service dog, a Pit Bull named Pup-Cake. Abcde’s mother posted an account of the incident on Facebook, implying the Santa believed "those dogs eat people.” The Santos family offered to take Pup-cake outside, but Abcde was still refused time with Santa. When it was explained that the Americans with Disabilities Act allows service animals to be present with their person, the Santos family were told Santa was allergic and Abcde would not be allowed to visit.
She was left in tears.
Elsa and Sven (Abcde and Pupcake) photo via the OC Register
After hearing of the incident, The Shops at Mission Viejo immediately responded. They posted on their Facebook page "We share in your concerns regarding the situation today involving a Santa at The Shops at Mission Viejo. 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.” The shopping center also offers Caring Santa experiences each year specifically geared toward making sensory-friendly, engaging and safe Santa experiences for children with special needs.
Noerr CEO Judy Noerr also responded to the incident, stating "For 26 years, The Noerr Programs has devoted itself to sharing the heart of Santa through the creation of magical Christmas experiences for all children and their families. The entire team at The Noerr Programs sincerely apologizes for any distress caused by this situation, and truly regrets the incident. We have reached out to the girl’s family, in an effort to extend a private Santa visit with complimentary photos of both the child and her service dog.”
Both the offending Santa and an elf were fired.
Hopefully Abcde, who is reportedly still upset by the incident, will be able to enjoy Christmas and get to have a good experience with Santa and Pup-cake. And maybe this Christmas people will learn to be a little less judgmental when it comes to Pit Bulls.
Learn more about Pup-Cake the Service Dog on Facebook.
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