Mall Santa, elf fired after turning away girl with autism with pit bull service dog

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Abcde and Pupcake (Photo via Facebook)

Abcde and Pupcake (Photo via Facebook)

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.

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15 comments

  • ZebraStripes

    I don’t blame the two people for refusing to serve her. Those dogs do eat people, and having one as a “service dog” is complete BS. Question – Why does someone with autism need a service dog? Is she blind? No. All I read from the link is the girl loves the dog, which was really stupid for the parents to get for her. Couldn’t she be just as happy with a Pomeranian?

    • yankeefan

      not all pitbulls are bad it depends on how the owner treats/trains them i had 3 pitbulls and never had problems with them so you need to shut your mouth your probably one that trains your dogs to kill so then yes they should kill you.

    • sickofdumbpeople

      Zebrastripes are you really that dumb? The eat people…seriously. The only reason those dogs have a bad rep is because of dh’s who raise them wrong n idiots like you with your ignorant comments. Unless you yourself have owned/ had a bad run in with one then you should probably keep ur mouth shut. Who are you to judge by all of them just because of the media always showing the negative stories. There are no bad dogs just bad owners. The beast is the two legged animal at the other end of the leash. And that santa and elf deserved to b fired.

    • Amanda

      Actually dogs for kids with autism are called companions not service dogs. They do not fit the service dog title. A child with autism in granted a companion dog when they can not calm down after they get frustrated. School can actually refuse to allow the dog into the school. Most malls have what is called pet night. Out of respect for the man in the red suit the family could have easily gone then or to a pet store. I know the mall close to us turned down a service dog because Santa was allergic. The family didn’t get in a huff they kindly said ok when can we bring him. The elf said well the pet store across the street is having santa there now, or tomorrow at 4pm we are having pet night. We allow service animals and their children to come to the front of the line. Nobody took to facebook to have him fired. I don’t think he should have been. I am sure santa has been peed on, spit on and has a very sore knee at the end of the night. Just because Santa was scared or allergic doesn’t give the mall grounds to fire him. Show some respect to the man in red who probably made hundreds of child happy for that happened.

  • sharon

    The world is full of ignorant people like many that are posting in this story. There are service dogs for all types of disabilities. I believe they even have them for people with depression. Service dogs are specially picked and trained. They have to have a certain temperament before they even start the training. They wouldn’t let an aggressive dog be a service dog. They are very pricey too. Pit bulls have a bad rap. Any dog does have the potential to bite.. but I have not heard of a pet dog eat anyone. What the Santa and elf did was illegal. Would it have even hurt him to smile and wave? I think not. He should not be a Santa if he would treat an innocent child with a disability like that. Shame on him.

    • Amanda

      Sharon, we are probably not getting the full story and never will. We do not know if the Santa ever had a complaint before. I don’t think he would have been a Santa if he didn’t care about children. Maybe the mother was out of control and he refused to smile and wave because of how she was treating him. You sit in his seat and lets see how long you last. I couldn’t get peed on, or yelled at all day. And no it isn’t illegal to turn someone away for a picture with Santa, not nice yes but not illegal. I would like to see the video footage of what happened that night because I have read many different stories including the mother started to swear at santa for refusing the picture. Just because he is a service dog, all people need to be respected, maybe he was attacked when he was younger by one. This story also said they have a caring santa program. Why didn’t this company do a couple days a week with the caring santa. This could be the fault of the company too not just santa.

  • Toni Pikowski

    I just want to make it clear to those reading this thread that pit bulls were NEVER nanny dogs. That is a very dangerous myth and even the pit bull advocacy group Bad Rap and retracted that myth, and admitted it was essentially a lie. Pit bulls have only been bred for blood sports. Due to their dog fighting genetics, including unpredictability, their grip and shake bite style, and their tendency to go for the face and throat, I would not personally recommend them for children. I understand that some families own them with no issues, but there are families that have had trauma level maulings and fatalities due to these dogs. Plenty of well raised pit bulls have gone on to do horrific things. If you look at the average pit bull attack story, it does not usually involve a dog fighting dog, but a family pet.

    It is also very important that people understand that there is a difference between ESA, therapy, and service dogs. It has become very confusing, especially since there is now a loophole and fake documentation of all 3 can be purchased online. True service dogs must complete a legitimate service dog program and be trained to do a task or provide a service. Therapy dogs pass some basic obedience training and the Good Citizen Canine test. They are often used in hospitals and must be well behaved, even under stress or in unfamiliar situations. ESA dogs do not require any training and are just their because it makes someone feel good. The only dogs protected by law and are allowed in public places are true service dogs.

    The dog in question was trained by Shorty, the midget pit bull activist with the t.v. show. I do not know if has a legitimate service dog training program. It is unclear if this dog does a task or provides a service. Someone mentioned it was there to prevent the little girl from wandering off. If that is true, it must be trained to do so, such as blocking her way or herding her back to her family. If the girl is personally attached to the dog and does not want to leave it’s side, it would not make the dog a true service dog.

    It is also concerning that I have heard this family has pulled a similar stunt with the same dog and that the mother was cursing at Santa and staff in front of the child. It is hard t say exactly what the truth is, but I fear that Santa might have been unjustly fired in order to try to make this media story go away.