A Florida woman has claimed an airline told her to flush her hamster down an airport toilet because the emotional support rodent was not allowed to fly with her.
It was reported that before Belen Aldecosea flew home from college to South Florida, she twice called Spirit Airlines to ensure she could bring Pebbles, her pet dwarf hamster.
But when Ms Aldecosea arrived at the Baltimore airport, Spirit refused to allow the animal aboard — despite her having a doctor’s letter certifying Pebbles.
The 21-year-old said she flushed Pebbles at an airline employee’s suggestion, after running out of other options.
Panicked and needing to return home promptly to deal with a medical issue, Ms Aldecosea was unable to rent a car and agonised for hours.
“Pebbles was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Ms Aldecosea said.
“I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
A spokesman for Spirit acknowledged the airline mistakenly told Ms Aldecosea that Pebbles was allowed. But he denied that a Spirit employee recommended flushing her pet in an airport bathroom.
“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 said.
But Ms Aldecosea said she is considering suing Spirit over the conflicting instructions that pressured her into making the decision.
She shared her tale after the story of an emotional support peacock — denied entrance to a United Airlines flight — went viral on the internet.
This case is different, said her Florida attorney, Adam Goodman. “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,” he said.
Animals on flights have become controversial. Some say travellers are taking advantage of federal law to get household pets on planes. Most major carriers such as American, Delta and United, say no, citing concerns safety and health concerns.
The US Transportation Safety Administration has no problem with carry-on hamsters. “Hamsters are welcome at our checkpoints,” said spokeswoman Sari Koshetz.