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UPDATE: In a statement Wednesday, an Ann Taylor representative apologized to Andrews for her experience in the store. "In our previous statement we said that her guide dog was unharnessed," said Catherine Fisher, vice president of corporate communications for the company. "This was not the case. We were misinformed, and we are sorry that this information was released."
SALT LAKE CITY — A nearly blind woman says she was kicked out of an Ann Taylor store in downtown Salt Lake because she came with her guide dog. The clothing chain, however, has its own take on events.
Becky Andrews suffers from retinitis pigmantosa, a degenerative eye disease. Her dog, Cricket, serves as an extra set of eyes, and she takes him everywhere she goes.
Last Friday, the two made a trip to City Creek shopping center, and Andrews' favorite store: Ann Taylor. A frequent customer at the clothing chain, she was caught completely by surprise when an employee asked her and Cricket to leave.
"I walked in ready to ask for some help ... and was shocked that, instead, I was told to leave," Andrews said.
The clerk and manager said she couldn't have her dog, Cricket, with her, though Andrews tried to explain her circumstances.
Eventually, she and Cricket left and went to another store, where they had a very different experience. "They were very friendly. They were very helpful. They didn't know what I had just been through," she said.
I walked in ready to ask for some help on finding and was shocked that, instead, I was told to leave.
The incident at Ann Taylor is a violation of federal law. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act says businesses must allow service animals to accompany people with disabilities everywhere the public can go.
In fact, Aaron Kinikini of the Utah Disability Law Center called it a "serious violation."
"It's a civil rights violation under federal law," he said.
In a statement to KSL News, an Ann Taylor representative apologized for the confusion but maintained that Andrews didn't have Cricket in her harness, a violation of store policy.
Andrews denies the dog was out of his harness; in fact, it doesn't even matter under the law. She also refutes the claim that the employee apologized to her.
In the end, all Andrews wants is a little understanding. "I hope they can use it as an opportunity to learn from it and make sure it doesn't happen again."
While Andrews doesn't intend to sue the clothing chain, the company could still face punishment. Some violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act come with $50,000 fines.