US Airline rejects claim student was forced to flush hamster down toilet

Belen Aldecosea, 21, said that she had twice contacted USA airline Spirit to confirm that she would be able to bring her dwarf hamster, Pebbles, onto her flight from Baltimore's Thurgood Marshall airport to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, as an "emotional support animal".

A spokesman for Spirit acknowledged the airline mistakenly told Aldecosea that Pebbles was allowed on the flight.

That's when, Belen claims, a Spirit told her she could either set the hamster free or flush it on the toilet.

Aldecosea considered letting the dwarf hamster run free but thought it would be more humane to quickly end Pebbles' life, according to The Miami Herald, which first reported the incident.

Aldecosea, under pressure of a medical condition to get home and unsuccessful in her efforts to rent a auto, claims that a Spirit representative at that point suggested that she either flush Pebbles down a toilet in the airport restroom or free the rodent outside the terminal. She said she then sat in a bathroom stall crying for 10 minutes. I was emotional. I was crying.

Spirit recognized that a representative did erroneously reveal to Aldecosea that her hamster could go with her however intensely precludes one from claiming its workers advised her to slaughter the animals.

In a statement, the airline said, "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".

A Spirit Airlines airplane at Logan International Airport
A Spirit Airlines airplane at Logan International Airport

However, it is up to individual airlines to decide what animals are allowed on on board its planes. She tried to rent a vehicle, failed, and claims that an airline staffer recommended she either release the hamster outside or flush it.

The debate over what counts as an emotional-support animal, and which animals should be allowed on commercial flights, has become a near-crisis for airlines.

Derek Dombrowski, a spokesperson for Spirit stated that an employee who Aldecosea spoke over the phone, gave her the wrong information. She had very few alternatives with her family and friends in Florida hours away.

A little over a year ago, Belen Aldecosea was flying home to Miami.

Twitter has also caught wind of the horrific story, and it's safe to say that Aldecosea's claims are not being received well.

Her attorney in Florida, Adam Goodman, has stated that this case is different."This wasn't a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers". Most don't allow rodents due to health and safety concerns.

Explains Goodman, the animal helped comfort the student before she knew the growth was benign. Rodents were not allowed on Spirit flights, a shocked Aldecosea was told - whether travelling with their human companions or in the cargo hold. "She thought she was following the rules", he said. The 21-year old was scared and did not even have any other option, so she had to take the traumatic decision.

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  • Michelle Webb