A college student flushed her emotional support hamster down a toilet after airline employees refused to let her board the plane with it - and is now contemplating a lawsuit against the airline.
Before Belen Aldecosea, 21, was set to fly home from college to Miami on November 21, she called Spirit Airlines twice to confirm she could bring her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles, on the flight.
According to Aldecosea, the airline told her it would be no problem. But once she arrived the day of her flight, Aldecosea claims the airline told her a different story.
Despite a doctor’s letter certifying the rodent as a comfort animal, a Spirit Airlines employee chased Aldecosea to the gate, screaming rodents were not allowed on board.
With no one to come pick up the tiny hamster and no rental cars available, Aldecosea and Pebbles were stuck at the airport - until, Aldecosea claims, an airline employee suggested letting Pebbles go or flushing her, a claim the airline has denied.
After rebooking her flight for a later one, and sitting for hours in the airport, Aldecosea said she finally decided to flush Pebbles.
She 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.”
But with no other options, Aldecosea said she felt it was more humane to end her life that way, rather than letting her go and risking her getting hit by a car.
So Aldecosea eventually flushed Pebbles - a support hamster she had gotten after a cancer scare the previous year.
After the incident, Aldecosea said she emailed Spirit Airlines to complain and the airline offered her a free flight - which she declined.
Now, the student has hired attorney Adam Goodman to fight the airline on behalf of Pebbles.
Goodman told the Herald: “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.”
Dwarf hamsters usually weigh less than two ounces - and the US Transportation Safety Administration has no rules against carry-on hamsters.
However, it is up to individual airlines to decide whether they allow the rodents on board.
A representative for Spirit Airlines admitted they mistakenly told Aldecosea that Pebbles would be allowed - but that no employee ever recommended disposing of the hamster in a toilet.
The airline told The Independent: "Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines.
"Rodents of any kind are not allowed on board for health and safety reasons.
"We did offer the guest a voucher for the inconvenience, but we never heard back from her."