A college student is alleging that she was forced to flush her emotional support hamster down a toilet after Spirit Airlines denied her the ability to board a flight with the animal. Belen Aldecosea, 21, claims she contacted the airline in advance and was told that her dwarf hamster wouldn’t be a problem, only to find out otherwise after arriving.
Aldecosea, a resident of Miami Beach, Florida, had booked a seat on a Spirit Airlines flight from Baltimore to South Florida on November 21. She says that she communicated with the airline about her emotional support hamster, Peddles, and was told that she would be able to bring it on board.
Once Aldecosea arrived at the airport, gate agents refused to let her board with Pebbles. The college student claims she had limited options regarding what to do with the hamster as her friends were hours away and her family was in Florida.
Aldecosea claims that an employee of Spirit Airlines recommended that she either let Pebbles go free or flush the hamster down an airport toilet, giving her the ability to board.
The college student skipped her flight and attempted to secure a rental car instead. But, being only 21, she was considered too young to rent one according to a report by Fox News.
“[Pebbles] was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” said Aldecosea. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
Aldecosea stated that she considered letting Pebbles go, but was worried that she would get hit or freeze to death.
“I didn’t have any other options,” she claimed.
While the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has no issue with rodents on flights, airlines are able to choose whether they want them to board.
Derek Dombrowski, a spokesman for Spirit Airlines, says that Aldecosea was misinformed when she was told her hamster would be able to fly and denies that an employee recommended she flush Pebbles.
“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 said. “It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.”
Aldecosea, now a student at Texas State University, is considering legal action against Spirit Airlines based on the airline “pressuring her into making an anguished decision with a pet certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal.”