What's New in Public Relations

November 1, 2011

A Guide (Dog?) for Good PR

Filed under: Public Relations Posts — Carlie @ 3:18 am

On October 23, Emily Ainsworth and her mother went to Winners in Edmonton to use a gift certificate that Emily had received from the store. But after picking out a dress and heading to the change rooms, they were told that they were no longer welcome because Emily, who has autism, was accompanied by Levi, the Labradoodle trained as a service dog. The worst part of this story? A few months earlier, Emily and her mom had been kicked out of the same store for the same issue. In fact, management gave them the gift certificate to apologize for the first incident.

 

Although each province has its own regulations and laws in place for service animals, it’s a given almost anywhere in Canada that a dog wearing the proper harness and accompanying someone with the proper license should never be evicted from a public place. Many people assume that service dogs are only for the blind, but a huge variety of people with a huge variety of disorders can benefit from the use of a service dog.

 

This incident could have been disastrous public relations for Winners. However, they did their best to turn it around. They took full responsibility for the incident, rather than blaming the victims or attempting to brush off the situation. The head of Winners’ locations in Western Canada spoke directly to the family and to the media, showing that the situation is indeed important to the store and its management and clarifying that this incident does not reflect Winners’ values or regulations. Finally, they found a way to make the situation better – they promised to educate all employees on policies regarding service dogs and will be making a $10 000 charitable donation to a charity chosen by the Ainsworth family.

 

It fits that Emily and her parents have decided to donate the money to training a service dog for another autistic child! Hopefully with the proper training programs in place, situations like this can be avoided in the future.

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