SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 News) - Becky Andrews goes nowhere without her guide dog Cricket.
"Cricket is my eyes,” said Andrews. Becky has a disease called Retinitis Pigmentosa and is legally blind. She sees the world in tunnel vision; imagine viewing your life through a pin hole. Without Cricket she wouldn’t be able to get around.
Her trusty guide dog was by her side Friday when she went to go check out the new Ann Taylor store at City Creek. Her excitement about visiting her favorite store was stopped short.
"I was told that I couldn't come in with my dog,” said Andrews. “I tried to explain that she was my guide dog. She referred me to her manager and after a few minutes and a few more attempts to educate, I left the store pretty frustrated and shocked," said Andrews.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, privately owned businesses that serve the public, such as hotels, restaurants and retail stores have to let service animals onto their property. ABC 4 went to Ann Taylor to find out why they didn’t follow the federal law.
The manager on duty Tuesday evening wasn't able to speak, so ABC 4 called Ann Taylor's corporate office, but did not immediately receive a response.
Andrews writes a blog and shared her experience with Ann Taylor and their refusal to let Cricket in their store. There was so much response to her story others started to write the company. Andrews said, "My understanding is that they issued a statement saying that Cricket was not in a harness when we came into the store."
But Andrews says that’s completely false. "If I'm out, she has her harness on and I’m holding on to her handle. That's how I get information. She turns and I pick up any clue she gives me through my left hand," said Andrews.
While she may have a legal case, all Andrews wants is an apology and to educate others about the role of guide dogs.
"All I had hoped for was, 'I’m sorry we're going to make an effort to be sure other employees are educated about the Americans with Disabilities Act so this doesn't happen to someone else,” said Andrews.
To read Andrews’ blog, go to: http://cruisinwithcricket.blogspot.com/
An Ann Taylor representative said that the store employee claimed that Cricket was not wearing a harness when Becky Andrews entered the store, saying the employee acted appropriately.
Andrews refuted this claim via her blog, and an Ann Taylor representative later retracted the claim that Cricket was not harnessed, while issuing a full apology over the incident.
Here is Ann Taylor's statement:
We at Ann Taylor sincerely apologize to Mrs. Andrews for her experience at the City Creek store. "Service animals are always welcome in our stores and this incident is not representative of how we approach customer service.
In our previous statement we had said that her guide dog was unharnessed. This was not the case. We were misinformed and we are sorry that this incorrect information was released.
We strive for 100 percent customer satisfaction. In this case we fell short. We are in contact with Mrs. Andrews and her family to make this situation right."