A Langley, B.C. trampoline park is apologizing to a local family after refusing entry to a boy’s service dog.
Danica Dutt said she took her brother, Kai Chand, to Extreme Air Park Wednesday. The 11-year-old has autism, and has a registered, professionally trained service dog named Rosie who came along.
Rosie, who Kai describes as his best friend, has tags, permits and paperwork in her vest, and Danica told CTV News she and Kai had photos of their service ID cards on them.
But before Kai could even get to the trampolines, a staff member told them the dog would have to leave as she was not needed, Danica said.
She said she was told the facility only allowed dogs with a “purpose,” such as seeing-eye dogs, are allowed in the facility.
“I explained to her, ‘Oh no, the dog’s going to sit with me in the waiting area,’ and she says, ‘No, your dog’s not allowed,'” Danica said in an interview Thursday.
She told CTV staff didn’t look at their paperwork or IDs, and when she tried to get a refund, staff refused. Instead, she said, they offered a credit so Kai and Danica could return without Rosie.
“But what good is a credit when Kai’s service dog is denied access because she’s not ‘needed?'” Danica wrote in a Facebook post which has been shared nearly 3,000 times.
Her brother, who did not understand what was happening, then began to cry, Danica said.
She told CTV he was so excited he even begged her to buy him a T-shirt with the park’s logo on it. The one-hour visit was supposed to be his reward for “being really good that day,” she said.
In the end, his mother came and brought the dog home so Kai’s day wasn’t ruined, but Danica said she felt the situation was not handled professionally.
“The fact that they said Kai’s dog wasn’t needed broke my heart because they don’t get to decide who needs a service dog and who doesn’t,” she said.
She explained that the dog’s role is to help keep him calm.
“When he gets overstiumlated he self-hurts and he screams and cries, and having this dog there can just give him a moment to step back and have some relief,” she said.
“I just want Kai to be treated as an equal. That’s all I want. And I want people to know that his service dog is there to help him.”
Kai’s mother, Tara Allen, ended up recording part of her interaction with an employee.
“It was just kind of mindblowing that they turn them away and wouldn’t refund their money,” she said.
She told CTV she’d called and asked to speak to the manager, but staff wouldn’t provide contact information.
“I think they just need to educate themselves on kids with special needs or service dogs,” Tara said.
William Thornton, CEO of BC and Alberta Guide Dogs, said the organization will be following up with the company about their policy. Rosie was trained by BC and Alberta Guide Dogs, one of the only accredited schools in the province.
“Wherever the public has access or is paying to go in is a public domain by definition and these dogs are allowed to enter that building,” he explained.
“I think the public are still playing a little bit of catch-up, that there are other types of dogs and the need is not as obvious to a person that has a hidden disability.”
B.C.’s Guide Dog and Service Dog Act makes it an offense to deny a certified dog and handler team access or accomodation, and those convicted could be fined up to $3,000. More information about the act is available on the province’s website.
In an email, Extreme Air Park told CTV services dogs are welcome, and staff do their best to accommodate all customers’ needs. In the statement, staff said that the issue arose during a conversation about the dog going into the trampoline area.
They said they’d reached out to Danica but had not heard back.
Kai’s sister confirmed that she did receive an apology over social media, as well as an offer for free access for a year. She showed CTV a screen grab of a message from Instagram sent by an account called “extremeairparkscanada” which read in part, “The person that our staff talked to on the phone regarding your service dog was misinformed.”
The sender, who appeared to be one of the owners of the park, said he was sorry and that he knew the year jump pass wouldn’t make up for their experience, but that he wanted to provide a positive experience in the future for all, including Rosie.
“I know how important animals are and how much of a difference they can make in people’s lives,” the message read.
Despite the offer, the family doesn’t think they’ll return.
With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Maria Weisgarber