A Santa Claus in Orange County, California, was anything but jolly and kind when he reportedly turned away a 7-year-old autistic girl because he was afraid of her service dog.
The incident took place at The Shops at Mission Viejo on Sunday afternoon after Abcde Santos and her 5-year-old pit bull service dog Pup-Cake waited in line for 30 minutes to see Santa – only to be told he would not meet with her, reports Orange County Register.
“For an autistic child to wait in line for 30 minutes, that’s an accomplishment in itself,” said Julie Miller, who is a friend of the family and in charge of the Pup-Cake the Service Dog Facebook fan page.
The Santa was reportedly hired through an outside agency and his name has not been released. After expressing his fear of the dog, the Santos family reportedly offered to remove him from the area so the little girl could visit Santa. The man still refused, according to the family – and then reportedly claimed he was allergic to dogs.
By law, service dogs are allowed in stores and other businesses. But Miller says the Santos family is often treated unkindly because of the dog's breed.
“This particular dog … she’s trained, not menacing, and she’s little,” Miller said.
On its Facebook page, The Shops at Mission Viejo posted the following message: “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.”
Miller says the Santos family is satisfied with the mall’s decision to replace its Santa, but also want to use this opportunity to educate people about the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and their service dogs.
Source: Orange Country Register/Photo Credit: Orange County Register, Facebook