A mall Santa turns away an autistic girl in California, only to leave the 7-year-old heartbroken. She waited in line 30 minutes with her pit bull service dog, Cup-Cake. For a child with autism, waiting in line that long is a challenge in itself.
Orange County Register covers the story about Abcde Santos and her incident that occurred at The Shops at Mission Viejo on Sunday.
The mall Santa Claus claimed he was scared of the girl’s dog, but even after the animal was removed from the shopping center, he still refused to see Santos.
Julie Miller, a family friend and animal advocate, speaks on the Santos family’s behalf regarding the visit that didn’t happen with Santa. Miller runs the Pup-Cake the Service Dog Facebook fan page. She says the Santos aren’t taking any interviews, but that the girl was left feeling extremely upset. As anyone knows with a child on the spectrum of autism, Miller says Abcde’s 30-minute wait in line is “an accomplishment in itself.” When the Santos family tried explaining to Santa that Pup-Cake is a licensed service dog, he “suddenly became allergic.” What didn’t make sense, is even after the dog was taken out of the mall, Miller says it didn’t make things better.
“After the Santos family offered to remove the dog from the area, the building, Santa still refused to see the child.”
The girl’s family has contacted representatives from the shopping center about her awful experience having Santa turn her away. The mall responded to their concerns on their 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. We look forward to welcoming back the Santos family and Pup-Cake for a special Santa experience.”
The Santos family is happy about the mall replacing their Santa.
Miller says this isn’t the first time the family has gotten grief over having a pit bull as a service dog.
“This particular dog… she’s trained, not menacing, and she’s little,” says Miller.
Miller said the Santos family is satisfied the mall replaced the Santa. A lot of people are angry at how Santa turned away an autistic girl, even if it had to do with the type of service dog she brought with her.
The Santos’ family wants more awareness about the Americans with Disabilities Act. It “prohibits discrimination of people with disabilities and their service dogs, regardless of breed,” Miller defines.
“They want people to get educated not about autism or pit bulls, but about the disabilities act so that little girls like Abcde won’t go and see Santa and end up crying.”
[Image via Orange County Register]