- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 13, 2014

TJ Maxx says it “deeply regrets” an incident last week in which a PTSD patient who survived the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings was forced to leave a New Hampshire store because of her service dog.

Sydney Corcoran, 19, suffered shrapnel wounds in the April 15, 2013, blasts and is now battling post-traumatic stress disorder. Koda, her certified service dog, is part of her everyday life now, she told an ABC affiliate in Boston.

“It’s knowing that I have this little support system that’s all my own. He’s my little cheerleader,” she said. “Honestly, I sleep better now. I used to have a really hard time trying to sleep because my mind would always just be going in overdrive.”

Ms. Corcoran was at a TJ Maxx in Nashua on Thursday when she was told the store had a new policy that said the dog had to be put in a carriage.

“He had on his service dog vest — bright blue, says ‘service dog’ all over it,” Ms. Corcoran told the station, noting that, under federal law, service dogs aren’t even required to wear those vests. “The store manager came over to me and said to me, ‘If you want to keep your dog in the store, you have to put him in the carriage.’”

The woman said she informed the manager that Koda is a service dog and that he wouldn’t be able to fit comfortably in the carriage. But the manager wouldn’t budge, and Ms. Corcoran was forced to leave.

Ms. Corcoran’s mother, Celeste, who lost her legs in the attacks, visited the TJ Maxx to complain.

“She said, ‘I’m sorry.’ And I said, ‘That’s not good enough. You should have known,’” Celeste told the ABC affiliate. “You just made someone with an emotional disorder so much worse.”

TJ Maxx said in a statement Friday: “We are taking this customer matter very seriously. Customers with disabilities who are accompanied by their service animals are welcome in our stores at any time. We have looked into the particulars regarding this customer’s experience and deeply regret that our procedures were not appropriately followed in this instance. We are taking actions which we believe are appropriate, including working with our stores to reinforce the acceptance of service animals.”

Ms. Corcoran and her mother said they’re hoping this incident will help raise awareness about the rights of people with service dogs.

“There are so many people with invisible, silent injuries — and the public needs to be aware that their service animals are sometimes their lifeline,” the mother Ms. Corcoran told the station.