Santa Claus costumes, for a man and woman, hang on the front of a Christmas decorations stall at a market.
Photo by David Gray/Reuters

Santa turns away autistic girl over pit bull service dog

Santa Claus could get coal in his stocking for this one.

A 7-year-old autistic girl and her service dog were turned away on Sunday at a mall in Mission Viejo, California by a not-so jolly St. Nick.

Abcde Santos, who’s first name is pronounced “ab-suh-dee,” waited in line for a half-hour with her pit bull service dog named Pup-Cake. According to the OC Register, Santa refused to visit with the Santos because of her furry companion.

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“For an autistic child to wait in line for 30 minutes, that’s an accomplishment in itself,” friend of the family Julie Miller wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Pup-Cake. “After the Santos family offered to remove the dog from the area, the building, Santa still refused to see the child.”

The Shops at Mission Viejo issued a statement following the incident, suggesting the Santa in question may get a pink slip for Christmas.

“We share in your concerns regarding the situation today involving a Santa at The Shops at Mission Viejo. We do not condone the behavior displayed by Santa and have worked with our partners at Noerr, the company that hires our Santas, to replace this Santa with one that is more compassionate to our guests’ needs,” said the company.

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Judy Noerr, CEO of the Noerr Programs apologized “for any distress caused by this situation, and truly regrets the incident.” They reached out the family and offered a private visit with Santa along with complimentary pictures. The company also plans to hold an event on Sunday, Caring Santa at The Shops at Mission Viejo, a program specifically dedicated to kids with special needs.

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Santa turns away autistic girl over pit bull service dog