Access Denied to Autism Service DogElizabeth Nelson
Danica Dutt was excited to take her 11-year-old brother, Kai, to a trampoline park on the evening of Wednesday, January 2, 2019. But the fun was stopped short when staff members at the Langley, B.C., location of Extreme Air Park refused to allow Kai’s autism service dog to enter the facility.
“We were approached by one of the staff members,” recalled Danica, “and the staff member told me that the dog was not permitted, and I said, ‘Okay. She’s not going to be jumping. She’ll be in the waiting area.’ They said no, that management said that wasn’t allowed.”
Kai sometimes suffers from meltdowns and outbursts, so he requires the aid of a service dog named Rosie to keep him calm and help him deal with situations he finds stressful.
Danica and Kai’s mother came to pick up Rosie at the park and took her home. While at the park, she filmed a short encounter with a staff member and received another unsatisfactory explanation of why Rosie wasn’t allowed in the park.
“I’ve talked to both our managers and the owner,” said the staff member. “We just don’t allow it, just in case somebody has an allergy.”
Danica and Kai continued to play at the park while their mother returned home with Rosie in tow. Luckily, all went well, and Rosie wasn’t needed. But Danica feels the way they were treated was still unfair.
“I felt like Kai’s disability wasn’t valid,” she said.
She was also unhappy with the way the staff member approached the situation, specifically refusing to allow Danica to speak to a manager.
Danica had Rosie’s paperwork with her that day and presented it, but staff still refused to see her point of view. According to an email sent by Extreme Air, it seems there was a misunderstanding regarding which areas of the park Rosie should be allowed in.
“The incident arose from a dialogue about the dog going onto the trampoline area,” claimed Extreme Air in the email. “Service dogs are welcome, and we do our best to address and accommodate all our customers’ needs, including those requiring special care.”
Luckily, William Thornton, CEO of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs, is on the case. “We work on these situations, so we will be speaking to the company involved, in fact we have spoken to them, and we will follow up, and we will see that they make improvements so this doesn’t occur again.”
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