Baltimore, MD – A college student from Florida flushed her emotional support hamster down the airport toilet because she wasn’t allowed to fly with it, and blamed a Spirit Airlines employee for telling her to do it.
“I didn’t have any other options,” Belen Aldecosea, 21, told the Miami Herald.
Aldecosea said that she contacted Spirit Airlines on two occasions prior to her Nov. 21, 2017 flight, and that she was assured that there would be no problem with her bringing her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles, along for the journey.
“They gave me the wrong information more than once,” she said.
Pebbles was initially checked in by a Spirit agent without issue, but Aldecosea said that a second employee chased her down as she neared airport security.
According to Aldecosea, the agent yelled that rodents were not allowed, and denied the woman’s request to put Pebbles in the cargo hold.
The outraged woman said she accepted a later flight to allow her time to develop a plan for Pebbles’ care, but that she knew no one in the area.
A Spirit employee then suggested that she turn the hamster free outside, or that she flush it down the toilet, Aldecosea claimed.
She said she contacted multiple rental car agencies, but that she was too young to meet their rental requirements, and no cars were available due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Aldecosea also decided that a Greyhound bus would take too long to reach her destination.
Ultimately, the woman opted to drown her emotional support animal.
“She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Aldecosea said. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
Spirit Airline determined that an employee did incorrectly assure Aldecosea that her hamster would be allowed on the flight, but denied that anyone from the airline suggested that she kill or harm the animal.
“Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines,” Spirit spokesman Derek Dombrowski told the Miami Herald. “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.”
Although the U.S. Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) has no rules against carry-on hamsters, individual airlines determine what will be allowed on board.
Aldecosea said that she purchased Pebbles after she experienced a benign, but painful growth on her neck during her first semester of college in Pennsylvania. The hamster was formally certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal.
Aldecosea’s attorney, Adam Goodman, said that he and the distraught woman plan to “discuss the legal remedies available,” including the possible lawsuit, TIME reported..