Walmart issued an apology after a woman in Utah claimed an employee harassed her and her service dog by accusing her of faking her disability.
Ashley Fitzpatrick told KUTV on Thursday that she and her dog, Kona, went to the Walmart in Spanish Fork, Utah, on Monday night when an employee stopped the two from entering the store. Fitzpatrick told the news station that the employee said Kona had to be on a leash and then accused her of faking her disability.
“How can you say that to someone like me? Even though it’s a mental disability, it’s just as debilitating,” Fitzpatrick told KUTV.
Fitzpatrick told KUTV that Kona helps her cope with her anxiety and depression. She said she’s had the dog for over a year, and the animal is trained to calm her down when she has panic attacks. Kona has helped Fitzpatrick gain confidence to leave the house daily, according to KUTV.
“There have been weeks where I haven’t left the house and now it’s to the point where I’m out every day,” Fitzpatrick said.
Fitzpatrick told the news station she wants the store to treat customers with service dogs better. After the incident, the Spanish Fork store managers met with Fitzpatrick and said they were looking “forward to working with Ashley and Kona to drive awareness and provide support for the service animal community.”
“I had the pleasure of meeting Ashley and her wonderful dog Kona this afternoon,” a store manager from the Spanish Fork location wrote on Facebook on Wednesday. “Walmart is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable shopping experience for our customers who rely on service animals, and we look forward to working with Ashley and Kona to drive awareness and provide support for the service animal community. Kona is a beautiful fantastic support for Ashley and I am thankful that we were able to come to a resolution to turn this into a positive experience.”
In a statement emailed to Newsweek, the company said they have apologized to Fitzpatrick.
“We’re committed to providing a safe shopping experience for those shoppers and associates relying on assistance from service animals,” the statement reads. “We appreciate our customer bringing this to our attention and have apologized.”
Last week, a Starbucks employee was fired for allegedly making fun of a customer who had a speech impediment. Tan Lekwijit wrote on Facebook that his friend, Sam, went to the café and stuttered while placing his order. When he received his drink, the words “SSAM” were written on his cup. Lekwijit told the Philadelphia Inquirer the company’s recent race sensitivity training should have also included how to treat customers with disabilities.