Santa Won’t Let 10-Year Old Girl Sit on His Lap Because of Her Service Dog

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For a family from New Hampshire, Nashua, the holiday spirit was ruined by Santa. During their visit to Nashua Pheasant Lane Mall, their children were excited about meeting the merry man in red and taking a picture with him. However, instead of getting a lovely childhood memory, their kids were sorely disappointed, because their service dog wasn’t allowed in.

Olivia, a 10-year old girl suffering from Rett syndrome, needs her specially trained service dog to be by her side at all times. Romeo, a highly-trained Labrador, detects her seizures and alerts her parents, but, to do that, he needs to be able to see Olivia.

While they were waiting in line to get their pictures taken, the Twigg family was informed that they need to remove their dog from the red carpet. Apparently, the mall’s Santa is allergic to dogs and didn’t want Olivia to come any closer unless she was alone.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, “allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals.” Romeo wouldn’t have been in any contact with Santa, as his focus is only on monitoring Olivia, which he even goes to school with.

After being denied participation in the event their kids were eager to be a part of, the family was directed to come back again- but for pet day or the event for children with special needs. Jill Twigg, Olivia’s mother, told CBS:

“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.”

Service dogs are not pets, but specially trained animals whose role is to assist people with different disabilities. Their role is to improve the quality of life for their owner, and, in Olivia’s case, alert her family to help her in time.

Cherry Hill Programs, the Santa experience provider for Pheasant Lane Mall, reached out to the family, explaining that their policy is to welcome service dogs, and that they would be happy to make a special appearance at their home.