A Maple Ridge woman is speaking out after she claims a Langley adventure park refused access to her brother with autism’s service dog.
Danica Dutt says because her 11-year-old brother Kai sometimes has outbursts and breakdowns, he needs to have his accredited service dog Rosie there to help calm him down.
On Wednesday, she and Kai visited the Langley location of Extreme Air Park — and despite having paperwork for Rosie, she claims she was told the dog could not enter.
“We were approached by one of the staff members and the staff member told me the dog was not permitted,” Dutt told Global News.
“I said, ‘She’s not going to be jumping, she’ll be in the waiting area,’ and they said, ‘No, management said that wasn’t allowed.'”
Dutt said staff told her the dog was not allowed because it could cause allergy problems for other park users.
In the end, she said, she had to call her mother to come and get Rosie so that Kai could use the park, which he did.
“I didn’t want to get in an argument, all I wanted was to be treated with respect,” she said.
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“There is awareness that needs to be done about service dogs for autistic children, that’s not my issue. It’s how it was handled and how I felt like Kai’s disability wasn’t valid, and how the employee kind of left me in limbo and wouldn’t let me talk to a manager.”
Extreme Air Park declined an on-camera interview, but the company did issue a statement by email.
“The incident arose from a dialogue about the dog going onto the trampoline area,” it said.
“Service dogs are welcome and we do our best to address and accommodate all our customers’ needs including those requiring special care.”
William Thornton, CEO of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs, called the incident “disappointing,” but said it was “refreshing” how quickly the company responded to him when he reached out.
“I explained the legalities of the situation and explained the experience that our client had and how there could be improvements in this area,” he said.
“Hopefully they’re going to get back to me next week and we’re going to spend some time with them and their staff helping them develop their policies and procedures on how to how to deal with persons with disabilities who are using guide dogs and service dogs.”
Dutt, who shared the incident on social media — where it went viral — said she hadn’t expected the attention but hopes the incident serves as a lesson about how to treat people like her brother.
“I just want public awareness for the good that service dogs do for children with autism, and just that just because someone’s disability is not visible doesn’t mean it’s not valid.”