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Parents upset over autism policy at St. Marys animal rescue

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Parents with children on the autism spectrum have raised concerns about a policy at an animal rescue organization near St. Marys.

Kismutt Small Dog Rescue said in a social media post that "no dog will be adopted into homes with autistic children."

They point to two cases, from over a decade ago, where dogs were injured after being placed in homes with children on the autism spectrum.

“We adopt dogs out to people with a whole host of different disabilities," the rescue told CTV News in an email. “Our dogs are adopted out strictly as pets. They are not trained service dogs. This is in our contract at time of adoption and has been in our contract for 22 years.”

Erin Doan said her family was denied an adoption from the rescue because her son has autism. When she tried to present the owner with different information about the autism spectrum, Doan said she was told the rescue were not interested.

“It doesn't get easier to stomach ignorance,” she said. “I really just wanted to raise awareness so that another family with autism who wanted to get a dog didn't have to be reminded of the misinformation that's out there.”

Doan said she'll keep looking for the right dog that will fit in with her family.

The story has some calling for a boycott of the rescue, or at least, a change in policy.

Janet McLaughlin, an associate professor in Health Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University, teaches a course on autism. She said it’s hurtful and discriminatory to paint all autistic people with the same brush.

“Children with autism, just like children without autism, are unique individuals that vary in their behaviour,” she explained.

McLaughlin also has a son with autism and rescued a cat several years ago. She said they have had zero issues with the animal.

“I think if I’d been told that we were denied the ability to adopt based on his diagnosis alone, despite the fact that he has no history of aggression or violence, I really would have felt hurt and outrage,” McLaughlin said.

Krista London, a mom of two kids with autism, said she was confused about why the disorder was singled out by the rescue. She said while her kids do have meltdowns, they are also very gentle with all the pets.

“To generalize one group of people, that there's no evidence that these kids or these adults are violent, it's just it's heartbreaking to me,” London said. “Every child is unpredictable. It's our job as parents to ensure that at no point are young children left alone with dogs. And dogs as well, they're unpredictable.”

According to the Thames Valley Children's Centre, which offers autism and behavioural services in London, very few violent outbursts happen in their settings.

“We have observed that many clients have beautiful and important relationships with their family pets and their service dogs,” they said in an email.

The Humane Society of Kitchener Waterloo & Stratford Perth said it makes sure pets are a good fit for the family before sending it to a new home, and they also provide support for properly introducing animals.

“We do not have a policy that denies families with autistic children," they said in an email to CTV. "We welcome any and all people to contact us if they are interested in adopting, or if we can answer any questions about our adoption process.”

Autism Ontario released a statement on Thursday

The organization said they "strongly object to the discriminatory ban against autistic children and families by Kismutt [Small] Dog Rescue."

Autism Ontario also said it's reminder that more education is needed surrounding autism.

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