When 9-year-old Alison Ainsworth, who is autistic, and her service dog Levi were kicked out of an Edmonton Winners store the first time, the store responded with a $25 gift card. Asking her to leave because of her dog was against company policy. When the girl and her dog returned to the store months later to use that gift card, they were again told to get out.
This time, the store’s response was much bigger. Executives of the retail chain apologized and promised to educate each employee about the company policy, which is to allow service dogs into all of their stores. They also offered to donate $10,000 to a charity of Ainsworth’s choosing. Appropriately enough, the money will go towards training a service dog for another autistic child in Alberta.
The Ainsworths will not pursue a human rights complaint against the company as originally planned and hope that the incident and associated publicity will be beneficial in affecting attitudes about service dogs in the community.
Karen B. London, PhD, is a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist and Certified Professional Dog Trainer who specializes in working with dogs with serious behavioral problems, including aggression. She is the author of five books on canine training and behavior.