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.

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.

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 (7)
  1. 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.

  2. If he had an allergy to animals he should not be a store Santa.. Many people have not only service dogs but pets at home so they will have dog hair on their clothing. He is representing Santa and should not be showing any type of negativity at all where any child can see it.. Get a different job! That’s like working in a deli that makes pb&j and being allergic to peanut butter… How is this jerk of a Santa or the company going to really make it up to her and bring back her belief? The damage is done and that so called wana be Santa discriminated against her and violated her rights.

  3. I am allergic to all animals. Some more than others BUT if I was a santa there is NO WAY I would do that to any child. How cruel. I even have asthma and have to keep an inhaler with me at all times. I would just suck it up and do it. I would have had to use my inhaler afterwards and I would be itchy and sneezy for 24 hours but I would still have accepted the girl with the service animal.

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