A Miami college student made the very bizarre decision to flush her hamster down an airport toilet, and now she’s considering legal action against the airline, Spirit Airlines.
According to student Belen Aldecosea’s lawyer, Adam Goodman, Spirit gave her the green light via email to bring her emotional comfort animal, a hamster named Pebbles, on board.
Aldecosea said she also contacted Spirit Airlines twice before her flight to ensure her hamster could board, to which a Spirit representative said it wouldn’t be a problem.
However, when she showed up to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Nov. 21 to fly home from school, the airline seemingly changed its mind.
Goodman says a Spirit Airlines employee suggested Aldecosea flush her dwarf hamster down the toilet.
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According to her lawyer, because Aldecosea is too young, she couldn’t rent a car on her own. She was left with few options given it was, at the time, the Thanksgiving holiday.
“It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Aldecosea told the Miami Herald on Thursday. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
According to the Miami Herald, Aldecosea considered letting Pebbles run free, but she thought it would be more humane to end the hamster’s life.
“I didn’t have any other options,” she said.
The airline denies the allegation agents suggested Aldecosea flush the hamster down the toilet.
“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,” Spirit spokesman Derek Dombrowski said. “It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.”
Dombrowski said a Spirit reservation representative “unfortunately, did misinform the Guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines.” However, when Aldecosea showed up to the airport with the hamster, agents offered her to take a later flight so she had time to “find other accommodations for the animal.”
“Rodents of any kind are not allowed on board for health and safety reasons,” a Spirit spokesperson told the Independent.
And according to Spirit Airlines’ website, it “does not accept snakes, other reptiles, rodents, ferrets and spiders.”
According to NBC News, Aldecosea’s lawyer said she was returning home because she had a benign but painful growth on her neck and needed to have it looked at by a doctor. Because of the cancer scare, Aldecosea got the dwarf hamster as a doctor-certified companion.
“She was so loving,” Aldecosea said. “It was like she knew I needed somebody.”
Her lawyer said Aldecosea is now considering filing a lawsuit against the airline over the airline staff’s instructions and because she felt pressured into making the decision.
Aldecosea’s story follows an incident with United Airlines last week, which denied an emotional support peacock boarding.
However, Goodman said Aldecosea’s situation was different.
“This wasn’t a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers,” he said. “This was a tiny, cute, harmless hamster that could fit in the palm of her hand.”
Lately, airlines have been introducing stricter rules for emotional support animals, some requiring travelers to provide documentation from a medical professional 48 hours in advance. According to Department of Transportation’s guidelines, “unusual animals are evaluated on a case by case basis.”