Tom's Farms said Monday the company has changed its polices in response to accusations of discrimination against a pit bull service dog.
"We welcome all service dogs, all breeds," said Judy Zulfiqar, whose firm RKR Marketing and Advertising advises the family-oriented tourist attraction.
She said Tom's Farms' polices have been updated and employees trained in response to the issue.
The controversy surrounds a three-year-old gray and white American Pit Bull Terrier that was raised from birth to be a service dog.
The story allegedly began on Aug. 3, when the wife of marketing guru Ed Santos -- he being known as Rock da Mullet and creative director for Wahoo’s Restaurants – took the couple’s little girl and the family service dog to visit Tom’s Farms in Temescal Valley. Abcde, who is now in Kindergarten, is autistic. The dog, Pup-Cake, is a pit bull and a fully certified service animal who was wearing her service vest Aug. 3 at Tom's.
According to a representative for the Santos family, Pup-Cake was thrown out of a Tom's shop by a store employee due to doggie discrimination.
The following statement released on behalf of the Santos family has been issued:
“While my family and I were shopping we were approached by a woman who stated she was the assistant manager and told -- not asked -- us to leave. When I inquired as to why, she stated that dogs were not allowed in the store. We informed her that the vested dog was a service animal, offered appropriate identification for the service animal and offered to answer any questions she may have had. Due to my willingness to clear up any lack of understanding that she may have had, I am at a loss as to why she then decided to call security on us all while yelling at my family and repeating ‘leave’.”
Julie Hernandez is the woman who brought the Santos family and Pup-Cake together. She owns and operates BullNannies, which raises pit bulls for the purpose of becoming service animals. She is helping to bring the allegations against Tom’s to the public, and says the Santos family is only seeking an apology and change to policy.
More than 30 days after the alleged incident and their letter to Tom’s management, the Santos’ say they have heard nothing so they’re putting their story out there, Hernandez said.
“There are an excessive amount of laws that pertain to service animals and the disabled. It is painfully apparent that Tom's Farms is not aware of them …,” the Santos’ wrote in a letter to Tom’s.
On Monday afternoon, Zulfiqar said Tom's Farms was reaching out to the Santos family.
The back story on the connection between the Santos family, Hernandez, pit bulls, and celebrity is adding buzz to the story. Hernandez works with Shorty Rossi of Animal Planet’s Pit Boss and the non-profit Shorty’s Charities. Rossi is a dwarf who uses service dogs, pit bulls to be specific. He has gotten behind the effort to force change at Tom's and is requesting a formal apology on behalf of the Santos.
According to Hernandez, Rossi’s service pit bull Hercules – a star on Pit Boss – receives regular discrimination despite his famous reputation as a sweetheart.
Hernandez insists the clamor against pit bulls is nonsense because when dogs go through the training and certification process to become service animals, breed is out the window.
“It’s not a breed anymore, it’s a service dog,” she said.