A 21-year-old college student is claiming that she flushed her emotional support hamster down the toilet after an airline employee would not allow her to bring the animal on the plane.
Belen Aldecosea, who was flying back from college to her home in South Florida, told the Miami Herald that she contacted Spirit Airline twice before her flight home from college to Florida, asking if she was able to bring the support animal on the flight.
The airline reportedly told her that bringing “Pebbles” on board was no problem.
However, despite earlier communication, when Aldecosea arrived at the airport in Baltimore, Spirit Airlines would not allow her pet on the flight.
Aldecosea told the paper that she was stuck, as her closest friends were away on campus and she needed to get home to Miami in order to tend to a medical issue.
The college student claims that a Spirit employee suggested she either let the animal go free outside or flush it down the toilet.
Spirit denies the allegations.
She reportedly thought for hours about what to do with Pebbles, eventually coming to the decision that flushing the animal down an airport toilet was the only option that would suffice.
“She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Aldecosea said.
“I was emotional. I was crying,” she added. “I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
According to The Herald, a spokesperson for the airline did acknowledge that Aldecosea was mistakenly informed that she could travel with her pet, however, the airline insists that no employee told Aldecosea to harm the animal.
The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration does allow rodents to travel via plane, however, the decision is ultimately left up to the airline’s discretion.
“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,” stated TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.
Still, most major airlines including American, Delta and United don’t permit rodents due to health concerns, according to The Herald.
In a statement to Fox News, PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch said, “One phone call could have saved this animal, or some kind person at the airport could have helped. Flushing a living being down the toilet is not only cruel but also illegal, and both the person who killed this animal and Spirit Airlines – if an employee did, in fact, advise the woman to drown the hamster – should be charged.”
“This must have been a horrific, terrifying death,” she added.
“After researching this incident, we can say confidently that at no point did any of our agents suggest this guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal. It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life,” Spirit Airlines spokesman Derek Dombrowski told Fox News.
Meanwhile, Aldecosea told The Herald that she is considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit on the grounds that “conflicting instructions” contributed to her making what the newspaper called an “anguished decision” about her pet, which she says was certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal.
An attorney representing Aldecosea asserts that his client’s case is more valid than that of a woman who recently attempted to board an “emotional support peacock” on a United Airlines flight.
“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,” Her attorney, Adam Goodman said.
Such cases have come under scrutiny recently, with some folks claiming that lose regulations around emotional support animals is leading some airline passengers to abuse the privilege.
Delta announced last month that the airline would be increasing restrictions on emotional support and service animals.
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