By: CBS 46
February 8, 2018
MIAMI (CBS) – A college student is claiming she had to flush her hamster down a toilet in a Baltimore airport after a Spirit Airlines employee told her they wouldn't allow it on the plane.
According to the Miami Herald, Belen Aldecosea was flying home to South Florida and called Spirit Airlines twice to make sure her emotional support hamster, Pebbles, would be allowed on the plane.
She told the Herald the airline said over the phone it wouldn’t be a problem, but when she arrived at the airport, the story changed. She was told Pebbles couldn’t go with her.
She claims the first Spirit Airlines agent she interacted with checked Pebbles in with no problem, and Pebbles’ cage even fit the proper size regulations for carry-on luggage.
But a second Spirit Airlines agent, she claims, sprinted toward her, shouting that rodents were not allowed and told her the hamster wasn’t allowed in the cargo hold or as carry-on luggage.
In her account to the Herald, Aldecosea says tried everything imaginable, including renting a car (she says there weren't any available) and reaching out to her friends (they were hours away back at school, she says). She says she needed to catch her flight and felt pressure to get home as quickly as possible to deal with a medical issue.
Aldecosea claimed to the Herald that a representative with Spirit Airlines suggested she flush her pet down the toilet, a claim Spirit Airlines has denied.
She told the paper she flushed the hamster.
“She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in a toilet,” Aldecosea told the Miami Herald. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good ten minutes crying in the stall.”
Derek Dombrowski, a spokesman with Spirit Airlines, said the company mistakenly told Aldecosea that her hamster was allowed, but denied that a representative suggested she flush Pebbles down a toilet.
“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,” he told the Miami Herald.
Aldecosea is now considering filing a lawsuit against the company for the alleged miscommunication, which resulted in her flushing Pebbles, which she says her doctor designated as an emotional support animal.
Spirit Airlines offered her a voucher for a free flight to some cities, but Aldecosea declined.
Some emotional support animals have been declined on airlines, like a giant peacock that recently went viral after United Airlines refused to allow it on board. But Sari Koshetz, a spokeswoman with the U.S Transportation Safety Administration, said the TSA doesn’t have an issue with carry-on hamsters.
“Hamsters are welcome in our checkpoint. Their container would typically go through X-ray while the owner would hold the hamster as the passenger walks through the metal detector so the creature is not subjected to radiation,” she told the Miami Herald.
But the decision whether or not to allow some animals and not others is a decision left, ultimately, up to the airlines.
Read the original version of this article, here.