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Mall Santa Sends Away Girl With Service Dog

NASHUA, New Hampshire (CBS) -- Holiday excitement was ruined for one New Hampshire family after a mall Santa denied a young girl because of her service dog that is used to detect seizures.

Jill Twigg took to Facebook to say that her daughter Olivia's visit with Santa at the Nashua Pheasant Lane Mall did not go as planned on Friday.

"It was horrible. I just wanted to go home from the mall. It was awful, " said Jill.

Olivia said she and her family waited in line and then approached Santa. He told her that she couldn't come any closer because he was allergic to her service dog, Romeo.

"When he said Romeo can't go in it made me sad," said Olivia.

Olivia and Jill Triggs with Romeo, Olivia's service dog (WBZ-TV)

Jill and her young kids found themselves at the center of a scene.

"The woman taking the pictures told me I needed to remove the dog off the red carpet. I said no I'm not going to move him. He has to be able to see her. She said that was not acceptable."

Romeo is not a pet, he is a highly-trained service dog for Olivia, who lives with the neurological disorder Rett Syndrome and suffers from seizures.

"He goes to school with her. When she has a seizure he comes and alerts me or he'll lay across her," said Jill.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, "allergies and fear of dogs are not valid reasons for denying access or refusing service to people using service animals."

Jill said Romeo wouldn't have touched Santa - his focus is Olivia.

Romeo the service dog (WBZ-TV)

Instead, the family was told to return for 'pet day,' or the special needs event.

"I don't want to take her to Caring Santa. I want her to have a normal experience. She's on a normal cheerleading team with normal children. We want to make sure she feels completely comfortable going wherever she wants at whatever time she wants."

Cherry Hill Programs, the Santa experience provider for Pheasant Lane Mall, said they have a clear protocol that welcomes all service dogs and they hope to make a special appearance at the Twiggs' home.

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