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Mall Santa fired for discriminating against young girl with autism

Bethany Ramos is an editor, blogger, and chick lit author. Bethany works as Editor in Chief for Naturally Healthy Publications.

Santa turns away girl with autism because of controversial service dog

Santa is a hot topic around Christmastime. Most parents spend the weeks leading up to Christmas debating about whether or not their kids should believe in Jolly Old Saint Nick. As a parent, it would never even cross your mind to worry about a hired Santa mistreating your child.

At The Shops at Mission Viejo mall in Mission Viejo, California, Santa screwed up big time. Every parent knows that a child looks forward to their Santa visit all year long. Santa crushed one 7-year-old girl's holiday spirit by refusing to see her specifically because of the pit bull breed of her service dog.

Abcde Santos, a young girl with autism, and her service dog Pup-Cake waited in line to see Santa at the mall for a full 30 minutes before being turned away. Santa refused young Abcde (pronounced "ab-suh-dee") because he was afraid of her service dog.

It would be heartbreaking for any child to wait a full half hour to see Santa and to be turned away at the last minute. Family friend Julie Miller explains that the event was even more traumatic for a young girl with autism.

Miller said, "For an autistic child to wait in line for 30 minutes, that’s an accomplishment in itself."

But wait — it gets worse. Miller recounts that the Santos family offered to remove the service dog so that the child could see Santa, yet Mr. Claus still refused. The Santos family also tried to explain to Santa that Pup-Cake was a trained service dog with rights protected by law.

Nope. Santa wasn't having it. Even after the Santos family bent over backward to get a Santa visit, Santa reportedly claimed allergies as the next reason for refusal.

Amidst it all, the Santos family remains classy. On the official Pup-Cake the Service Dog Facebook page, run by Miller, the family calls for more education on autism and pit bulls to prevent further discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Santos family issued an update via the Pup-Cake Facebook page, confirming that "bad" Santa and his elf who participated in the discrimination were promptly fired.

Pup-Cake's Facebook page explains, "Autism is accompanied by many sensory issues, included self-harm behaviors and feeling overwhelmed at times by lights, sounds, especially when waiting; Pup-Cake the service dog’s job is to intervene in those moments."

Certainly, the most controversial issue in this story is the use of a pit bull as a service dog, but no matter what you believe or what preconceived notions you may have, there's no good reason that this little girl was denied a Santa visit. Santa represents Christmas magic to kids everywhere, some who need it more than others. Santa, you should know better than to discriminate.

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