NASHUA, New Hampshire (CBS) — Holiday excitement was ruined for one New Hampshire family after a mall Santa denied a young girl because of her service dog that is used to detect seizures.

Jill Twigg took to Facebook to say that her daughter Olivia’s visit with Santa at the Nashua Pheasant Lane Mall did not go as planned on Friday.

“It was horrible. I just wanted to go home from the mall. It was awful, ” said Jill.

Olivia said she and her family waited in line and then approached Santa. He told her that she couldn’t come any closer because he was allergic to her service dog, Romeo.

“When he said Romeo can’t go in it made me sad,” said Olivia.

nosantadog Mall Santa Sends Away Girl With Service Dog

Olivia and Jill Twigg with Romeo, Olivia’s service dog (WBZ-TV)

Jill and her young kids found themselves at the center of a scene.

“The woman taking the pictures told me I needed to remove the dog off the red carpet. I said no I’m not going to move him. He has to be able to see her. She said that was not acceptable.”

Romeo is not a pet, he is a highly-trained service dog for Olivia, who lives with the neurological disorder Rett Syndrome and suffers from seizures.

“He goes to school with her. When she has a seizure he comes and alerts me or he’ll lay across her,” said Jill.

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.”

Jill said Romeo wouldn’t have touched Santa – his focus is Olivia.

dog1 Mall Santa Sends Away Girl With Service Dog

Romeo the service dog (WBZ-TV)

Instead, the family was told to return for ‘pet day,’ or the special needs event.

“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.”

Cherry Hill Programs, the Santa experience provider for Pheasant Lane Mall, said they have a clear protocol that welcomes all service dogs and they hope to make a special appearance at the Twiggs’ home.

Comments (6)
  1. While I have empathy for people who use service animals, those of us with allergies are struggling more and more with these situations as tolerance for pets in public grows. I’m allergic to dogs, my allergies don’t know whether or not the dog is a ‘service’ animal. No easy answers here, but there is also no need for the media to point fingers.

  2. Leo Minster says:

    Completely ridiculous. This girl had her special photo ruined. Rather than go on a tangent, I’ll keep it simple. I will no longer shop at the Pheasant Lane Mall. My prayers and wishes to Olivia for a fantastic Christmas. Please know that many New Hampshire residents are behind the Twigg Family.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More From CBS Boston

Opioid Crisis
Download Our App
Download Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE