A college student says she was forced to flush her pet hamster down an airport toilet after Spirit Airlines allegedly gave her conflicting information about whether the emotional support animal could fly.
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Belen Aldecosea was preparing to fly home to Fort Lauderdale from Baltimore to deal with a medical issue and called Spirit Airlines to make sure her dwarf hamster, Pebbles, was OK to fly, the Miami Herald reports.
The airline allegedly gave her the thumbs up several days before the flight, but when Aldecosea finally arrived at the airport on Nov. 21 she says she was then told the animal could not board with her.
The hamster was in a small cage that fit regulations for carry-on luggage but the airline said the pet could not go on with passengers or in the cargo area of the plane, the outlet reports.
The Miami native says Pebbles was a true comfort to her at a time when she really needed support last year during her first semester at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., when a golf-ball sized growth in her neck led to a cancer scare.
The growth was later determined to be benign, but still needed to be removed, which was why Aldecosea was going home to Florida.
Having already agreed to take a later flight and striking out on rental cars due to her age and being days before Thanksgiving, Aldecosea was left with few options.
It was at that point Aldecosea claims a Spirit Airlines employee suggested she let Pebbles go free or flush her down an airport toilet, a claim Spirit has vehemently denied.
Hours away from campus and with no other options, Aldecosea did something she never thought she would have to do.
She flushed Pebbles down the toilet.
“I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall,” Aldecosea told the Miami Herald.
“I didn’t have any other options,” she said.
The 21-year-old is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit over what she says were conflicting instructions about whether the pet could fly with other passengers.
Aldecosea says she emailed Spirit to complain after the incident and the airline offered her a voucher for a free flight to specific cities, which she declined.
A spokesman for Spirit admitted that Aldecosea was at first mistakenly told Pebbles could fly, but denied an employee recommended the hamster be flushed.
“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 told the Miami Herald.
Flushing a hamster down the toilet seems a little bit extreme, don’t you think? Couldn’t she have just turned it over to TSA?