A California mall Santa and elf were fired after turning away a young girl with autism who had a pit bull service dog, WTIC reports.
Abcde Santos — pronounced “Ab-suh-Dee” — was with her family and her dog at The Shops at Mission Viejo when, according to a Facebook page dedicated to Pupcake the Service Dog, Santa refused to take a picture with her and the dog because “those dogs eat people.”
The Facebook page says that Abcde’s mom offered to take Pupcake out of the mall completely and even asked if Santa would just smile and wave at Abcde, but Santa said, “No because they support those dogs.” The family explained the laws regarding service dogs, at which point they say Santa suddenly said he was allergic.
The Noerr Programs, which provides digital event imaging and marketing services — including photos with Santa — to shopping centers nationwide, apologized for the incident. The company’s CEO, Judy Noerr, wrote a post on the Facebook page for The Shops at Mission Viejo saying that on Sunday, Dec. 7 the company will present its Caring Santa at the mall. The Caring Santa is a program started in 2011 for kids with special needs, and it can be found in 119 locations across the U.S.
The Facebook post from Noerr also said that the company reached out to the girl and her family and invited her to a private visit with Santa, complete with complimentary photos of the girl and her dog.
The family released a statement saying that the incident was resolved by both Simon Property Group, which owns The Shops at Mission Viejo, the management team at the mall and Noerr.