SANDY SPRINGS, Ga. — A woman said her family was humiliated after they were kicked out of a skating rink for bringing a service dog.
Maggie Leptrone, 21, said she went to Center Ice in Sandy Springs with her family and service dog, Mona. She said a manager asked her family to leave because no pets were allowed – but Mona is a service animal and has a legal right to be there. Under the law, service dogs are considered “medical equipment” and Mona is vital to Maggie’s health.
“What could he have possibly thought Mona was doing? She is calm, she’s gentle. Her alert is (to paw) at me, it’s not causing a scene,” Maggie said. “That’s the whole point on Mona. You’re not supposed to know she’s there.”
Maggie has diabetes and Mona alerts her when her sugar levels get too low or too high. She said Mona is a lifesaver – literally. She helped save Maggie after a terrifying incident when she wouldn’t wake up during a diabetic emergency.
Mona is vital to Maggie’s life and the two cannot be apart, which makes the incident at the skating rink hard for Maggie’s mom, Deb, to understand.
“My daughter had had enough. She was embarrassed, she was angry, she was hurt,” Deb said. “And by that point, the day had been ruined.”
Service dogs are legally allowed to go anywhere people can go – including restaurants, stores – and skating rinks.
“Just like anyone in a wheelchair, (Mona) is medical equipment and she’s allowed to go anywhere we are allowed to go,” said Deb.
Maggie said she offered to show Mona’s certification to the ice rink manager and offered to call the Department of Justice, which enforces service animal laws, but the manager insisted that they leave.
The ice rink apologized on Facebook, stating that the owners would like to sit down and talk with Maggie and her family.
The owners of Center Ice, Stephane Normandeau, Mike Aldredge and Michelle McIntosh issued the following statement about the incident:
"This is in response to the regrettable incident that happened with Maggie Leptrone at our rink.
"As soon as we found out what had happened, we took immediate action. Regarding the employee who told us he was not aware of the law, we used this as an immediate opportunity to re-educate our entire staff about the law.
We also reached out to Maggie Leptrone on Saturday. Her Mom, Deborah Leptrone responded back to us. Her Dad, Ralph Leptrone reached out as well Saturday evening, and we responded to him within 20 minutes with a personal cell phone number to talk about what happened. We apologized and set up a meeting the day after the incident in order to hear their concerns. We are meeting with them at a time and a place of their choosing. We have done everything in our power to rectify and learn from this incident.
"Mike Aldredge, a co owner of Center Ice, is the father a profoundly intellectually impaired child. He is an advocate in his community, passionate in embracing and welcoming people of all abilities and disabilities. Center Ice has always been a service dog friendly facility.
"We regret the actions of a single employee and while we cannot discuss personnel matters, we can assure you this will never happen again."
Maggie said education among business owners and staff is key to making those who need service animals feel welcome in all establishments.
“So many people don’t understand or have their wires crossed and don’t quite grasp what service dogs do,” Maggie said. “So, education is important.”