Published: Fri, February 09, 2018
Markets | By Terence Owen

Texas State student: Airline told me to flush pet hamster at BWI

Texas State student: Airline told me to flush pet hamster at BWI

Belen Aldecosea was preparing to fly home to Fort Lauderdale from Baltimore to deal with a medical issue and called Spirit Airlines to make sure her dwarf hamster, Pebbles, was okay to fly, the Miami Herald reports.

"She was scared, I was scared, it was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet", she told the Miami Herald.

When she arrived at the Baltimore airport, the airline refused to let the animal on the flight.

Aldecosea said she spent hours scrambling to find another way to get home, including trying to rent a auto. An airline representative ultimately suggested that Aldecosea either let Pebbles run free or flush the rodent down a toilet, a claim the airline vehemently denies. There were also, according to Aldecosea, no rental cars or buses, and she spent hours trying to solve the problem.

"I was emotional, I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall", Aldecosea recounts.

A representative for Spirit Airlines denied that an employee said to flush the emotional support animal.

Airline passengers have raised concerns in recent years over what some view as exploitation of the concept of an emotional support animal, with a recent story about an "emotional support peacock" coming to mind.

This case is different, said her Florida attorney, Adam Goodman.

"I didn't have any other options", she said, explaining that she had considered letting her "emotional support" hamster go on the grass outside of the airport, but felt that would constitute animal cruelty because the hamster would likely starve to death or be eaten by an animal. The woman, Belen Aldecosea, claims the hamster was a certified emotional-support animal.

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As Aldecosea walked to security, a second employee told her the animal wasn't allowed onboard.

"[Pebbles] was scared. I was scared".

She twice called Spirit in advance, to verify the hamster could fly.

Despite a doctor's letter certifying the rodent as a comfort animal, a Spirit Airlines employee chased Aldecosea to the gate, screaming rodents were not allowed on board.

In a statement the airline said, "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".

Most major United States airlines, however, don't allow rodents on flights over concerns about health and safety.

Goodman said this obviously wasn't what Aldecosea wanted to do, but having adults tell her it was OK compounded the situation.

When Aldecosea showed up that day, she said, the first Spirit agent checked her emotional support pet in with no problem. "I didn't have any other options", Aldecosea told the Miami Herald. She was offered a seat on a later flight and tried to rent a vehicle to take Pebbles back to her student accommodation, but no cars were available.

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