An Upstate 16-year-old said she was kicked out of the mall for walking in with her service dog.
Kaelynn Partlow is a teenager from Simpsonville who said she was harassed by Haywood Mall security on Saturday afternoon in Greenville.
Her dog, Sabrina, was rescued from the shelter, and she's been a service dog for at least two years.
Partlow said she's brought her service dog to Haywood Mall before and she's even been complimented on Sabrina's good behavior. This time, though, she and her mom said mall security was out of line.
The teen has Asperger's syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. She said Sabrina acts as a barrier around her in crowded places like the mall.
She said typically when she walks into restaurants or other crowded public places, people see Sabrina's vest and say no more.
Saturday afternoon was a different story, when a mall security officer saw them walk in.
Partlow said he approached her and asked if Sabrina was a service dog. Then he asked for her paperwork and identification. But according to the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is what South Carolina abides by, people with service dogs are allowed in public places, including shopping centers.
People in those public places are only allowed to ask service dog owners if the dog is a service dog, and what the dog is trained to do to help them.
Even though Sabrina has multiple certifications and training, service dogs don't have to wear special equipment or tags.
Partlow said her dog did nothing wrong.
"I could understand if she barked or lunged at someone. I would've removed her myself. But she didn't," said Partlow.
She said that officer walked away but came back with another officer. She said they walked her to their supervisor, who was parked outside in a security SUV.
"It went from a comfortable conversational distance that you would have with somebody you don't know to their sleeve was touching my sleeve. And it was then that I realized that if I didn't go with them, I would be forced to go with them," said Partlow.
Partlow said she was scared she'd be arrested and didn't know why.
"It was very upsetting because of how embarrassed Kaelynn was. From an outsider's perspective, watching the situation unfold, it appeared as though she had, Kaelynn had done something wrong," said her mother Candy Cannon.
Cannon went to speak with security officers after they told her daughter to leave the mall. She said they told her they were within their rights and that it was their policy.
The mall's management responded with a different answer.
They said that all customers, including persons with disabilities, are welcomed to the mall.
FOX Carolina receives the following statement from a spokeswoman:
"We understand the important role that the service animals have. We are addressing this misunderstanding with our security team and are attempting to connect with the customer to rectify the situation."
Partlow and her mom have yet to hear anything from Haywood Mall officials. They just want an apology and the promise that nothing like this will ever happen again to anyone.
Employees who work at stores inside the mall said they see service dogs walking the halls every day.
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