She says the staff told her to flush the hamster.
Young woman Belen Aldecosea was on her way home from college with her emotional support dwarf hamster named Pebbles which she bought after a cancer scare. The 21-year-old was flying on Spirit Airlines from Baltimore to South Florida on Nov. 21 and according to Aldecosea, she was clear to fly with her little pet, providing a doctor's note specifying that Pebbles helped her through her traumatic health scare.
A rep for Spirit Airlines, Derek Dombrowski, confirmed that they had indeed given Aldecosea permission to fly. They told Miami Herald:
"Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines."
Yet, when Aldecosea arrived at the gate to check into her flight she was told that the hamster was not allowed on the flight. This is when Aldecosea says the airline representative suggested that she flush Pebbles down the toilet or let her go outside.
As she searched for other options, renting a car, finding another flight, or asking friends to take the little animal, she says she was eventually forced to do the unthinkable and flush the hamster down the toilet. She had to make her original Spirit Airline flight in order to deal with a health emergency at home in Florida and says she had no other choice.
The hamster was terrified as she was put into toilet bowl, Aldecosea told the Miami Herald.
"She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet. I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall."
While Sprit Airlines vehemently denies any accusations that they told the young woman to flush her pet, Aldecosea, now a Texas State University student, is still considering pressing charges. She says that the airline forced her to make the decision to get rid of her animal but the airline is standing firm that this never happened.
"To be clear, at no point did any of our agents suggest this guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal," spokesman Derek Dombrowski said.
While many are comparing the emotional support hamster to the emotional support peacock that was denied boarding on a United flight last week, Aldecosea's lawyer says this is different.
"This wasn't a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers. This was a tiny cute harmless hamster that could fit in the palm of her hand," he said.
While airlines, like Delta, have announced that certain emotional support animals are no longer allowed on flights, hamsters and small confined pets are allowed on airplanes according to federal regulations and U.S. Transportation Safety Administration.
"Hamsters are welcome in our checkpoint. Their container would typically go through the X-ray while the owner would hold the hamster as the passenger walks through the metal detector so the creature is not subjected to radiation," according to TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.
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Images via Miami Herald
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