California Mall Replaces Santa Accused Of Turning Away Autistic Girl Over Her Service Dog

(bnilsen)

Obviously not the Santa in question. (bnilsen)

Perhaps the only thing worse than being terrified by a mall Santa Claus is not getting to hang out with the guy when your heart is set on it. The family of a 7-year-old autistic girl in California says the youngster was “heartbroken” when she didn’t get to see Santa after a 30-minute wait, because he didn’t like the look of her service dog.

According to a family friend who spoke with the OC Register, the man was afraid of the five-year-old pit bull named Pup-Cake, and turned the girl away, she said.

“For an autistic child to wait in line for 30 minutes, that’s an accomplishment in itself,” the friend said of the girl’s experience.

She says that the family tried to explain that the pooch was a trained service dog, allowed by law to be at the mall. But then, “Santa suddenly became allergic,” claims the friend.

“This particular dog … she’s trained, not menacing, and she’s little,” she said.

The family contacted mall officials, who immediately responded and said that the Santa in question had been removed from his post.

“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 mall said in a post on its Facebook page. “We look forward to welcoming back the… family and Pup-Cake for a special Santa experience.”

That’s good enough for the girl’s family, the friend says, and they hope others can learn from the incident.

“They want people to get educated not about autism or pit bulls, but about the disabilities act so that little girls [like her] won’t go and see Santa and end up crying.”

Santa at Mission Viejo mall rebuffs autistic girl over service dog [OC Register]