Autistic girl wins apology over service dog ban

The mother of an autistic girl has received an apology from the Winners retail chain for forcing her daughter and service dog out of its store in west Edmonton last weekend.

A young girl with autism and her mother received an apology from the Winners retail chain for barring the girl's service dog from its west Edmonton store last weekend.

"Honestly I'm so happy today … in light of a really hard week," said Alison Ainsworth.

Ainsworth and her nine-year-old daughter Emily were told by store staff on Sunday that Emily's dog Levi, whose harness identifies him as a service dog, was not allowed in the store.

But on Thursday, the chain assured Ainsworth, Emily and Levi will be welcomed at the store should they return.

"Emily … is excited that the next time she goes to get a dress, she'll be able to come home with one," said Ainsworth.

Emily Ainsworth, 9, and service dog Levi have been invited back to shop at Winners. ((CBC))

It was the second time the discount clothing store had ordered the family to leave.

The chain apologized after store management kicked out the family in July, giving Emily a $25 gift card — the same card Emily was hoping to use Sunday.

This week Ainsworth spoke with the president of Winners' Western Canada stores, who attributed the incidents to a failure of staff to follow the retail chain's policy.

Management promised her it will educate each employee on its policy, which allows service dogs in all its stores, she said.

Winners will also donate $10,000 to a charity of Ainsworth's choice — which she will commit to training a service dog for another autistic child in Alberta.

Ainsworth hopes the publicity around the incidents will help change attitudes of businesses and the public about service dogs.

"This is a really big message and we're grateful to the community in standing up with us on this."

The family has decided not to follow through with a human rights complaint against the company.