Pebbles the hamster wasn't so lucky. When Spirit Airlines didn't let her board the plane, her owner flushed her down the toilet after she says a Spirit Airlines employee suggested it.
21-year-old Belen Aldecosea tried to bring her hamster on her flight from Baltimore to Miami Beach in November. She told the Miami Herald that she called Spirit Airlines twice before her flight to make sure the emotional support animal — who came with a doctor's note — could fly with her. The airline company, according to Aldecosea, told her that it was fine.
"She flushed Pebbles" will haunt me.https://t.co/eU8Iv5bU7d
— Danielle Paquette (@DPAQreport) February 8, 2018
Aldecosea made it through the first security checkpoint without any issues, but says she was chased down by another Spirit employee and told that rodents weren't allowed on their planes.
She tried to rent a car, but it was late November and the height of the Thanksgiving rush, so there were no rentals available. She considered taking a Greyhound bus, but needed to be in Florida in time for a medical procedure.
Aldecosea says a Spirit employee suggested either letting Pebbles go free outdoors or flushing the pet down the toilet. She told the Miami Herald that she "didn't have any other options" since she didn't want the hamster to suffer a slow death in the cold.
She decided to flush the hamster down the toilet.
“She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Aldecosea told the Herald. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
Spirit Airlines denies that any of its employees told Aldecosea to kill her pet. Derek Dombrowski, Spirit's media relations manager, said Aldecosea's isn't completely true.
"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," Dombrowski wrote in an email. "It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life."
People, understandably, are horrified with Pebbles' untimely demise. And they're skeptical of whose version of the story is right.
Also, no human being in the world would tell you to FLUSH A LIVE ANIMAL DOWN A TOILET, airline employee or not. I don't believe this at all.
— Jules Suzdaltsev (@jules_su) February 8, 2018
I understand why people are mocking this story. However, after reading the article, I really feel badly for this girl. Spirit Airlines confirms she called the airline twice and was told both times it was okay for her hamster to travel with her. She though she had it covered 😟
— Shelby Conner (@t4mtumblr) February 8, 2018
Spirit does acknowledge that its representative gave Aldecosea the wrong information about what animals are allowed on its flight, but as Dembroski pointed out, its emotional support animal policy excludes rodents, reptiles, and spiders.
"We did offer the guest a voucher for the inconvenience, but we never heard back from her," Dembroski said.
Aldecosea bought Pebbles and had her certified as an emotional support animal after dealing with a stressful semester due to medical issues. She is considering suing Spirit Airline for "conflicting instructions" that led to the death of Pebbles.
Airlines have been tightening restrictions on allowing "emotional support animals" on flights recently. For instance, United Airlines used to only require a 48 hour advance notice and a note from a doctor. Starting March 1, however, passengers will need to include a letter from a vet stating that the animal is healthy and well trained. Animals must also be small enough to fit in a crate under the seat.