Florida woman flushes pet hamster down airport toilet after being denied passage

A Spirit Airlines flight is seen in a file

Belen Aldecosea, 21, of Miami Beach, told the Miami Herald that she was misled by ticket agents of Spirit Airlines who assured her that she could carry her hamster aboard the flight to Fort Lauderdale from Baltimore-Washington International Airport in November 2017.

Derek Dombrowski, a spokesman for Spirit Airlines, admitted that the airline mistakenly told Aldocosea that Pebbles was allowed to fly, but denied that they'd recommended killing the poor hamster. According to the 21-year-old from Miami, an airline employee suggested she flush Pebbles, or set her free.

She says the company refused to let her bring the pet on a flight as an emotional support animal.

A Spirit Airlines representative reportedly suggested two courses of action: either release Pebbles to the wild at the airport doors, or flush her down the toilet.

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According to Aldecosea's attorney, Adam Goodman, she is now considering a lawsuit against the airline. "It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet", said Aldecosea.

Emotional support animals have made the headlines recently after Delta, a top internal airline in the USA, announced a crackdown.

She bought Pebbles after going through a cancer scare while studying at Wilson College in Pennsylvania - and was flying home after withdrawing from school to have surgery on the benign tumor doctors had diagnosed. A Spirit staffer, she claims, suggested she either let the hamster free outside, or flush her down a toilet.

United Airlines said that requests to bring emotional support animals onto flights have risen by 75% in a year, the Daily Telegraph reports. Was flushing the animal down the toilet really the only option here? "I sat there for a good ten minutes crying in the stall".

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"This wasn't a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers". Mr Dombrowski said "unfortunately" a reservation representative gave her the wrong information.

However, the airline refused her entry onto the plane and told her to get rid of him. The bus ride, she says, would have been too long (a quick search of the Greyhound website showed a typical ride clocking in at 25 hours, and it's conceivable that it could have been longer during the holiday season).

As her flight time neared, Aldecosea faced a choice - and decided it would be more humane to end Pebbles' life than abandon her outside. She said she was also told the hamster, sitting in a cage which fit regulations for carry-on luggage, could not go in a cargo hold either.

TSA spokeswoman Sari Koshetz told the Miami Herald: "Hamsters are welcome in our checkpoint".

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A number of United States airlines have cracked down on the wide range of animals that are allowed to fly as therapy pets.

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