MIAMI – A college student says bad information from Spirit Airlines led her to flush her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles, down an airport toilet, according to the Miami Herald.
Belen Aldecosea, 21, of Miami Beach, Florida, was flying home from college to South Florida to deal with an urgent medical issue.
Aldecosea says she checked with Spirit Airlines multiple times in advance before the flight to make sure she could bring the pet along. The hamster was certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal.
When she arrived at the Baltimore airport, the airline refused to let the animal on the flight.
A Spirit Airlines spokesperson acknowledged to the Herald the airline mistakenly told Aldecosea the pet would be allowed on the flight.
Aldecosea’s only friends were hours away at campus; she had no family in the area and she was not old enough to rent a car, she told the Herald.
An airline representative suggested she flush Pebbles, Aldecosea said. Spirit Air has denied that any representative suggested the drastic move.
“One of the representatives started giving me little tips like, ‘Oh you should just leave her, or flush her down the toilet,'” Aldecosea said.
Aldecosea told the Herald that, out of options and with her flight boarding soon, she considered just letting Pebbles free but felt it was more humane to flush the animal than let it run around in the cold, only to get hit by a car.
“I didn’t have any other options,” she told the Herald. Finally, sobbing in an airport bathroom, Aldecosea flushed the creature down the toilet.
“She was scared. I was scared,” Aldecosea told the paper. “It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet.”
Aldecosea is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit Airlines for the conflicting information that she says led her to flush her emotional support pet.
Spirit Airlines issued this statement about Aldecosea’s claim, which made international headlines Thursday:
“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. It is incredibly disheartening to hear this Guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.
“Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the Guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines. When the Guest appeared with the hamster at the airport, our agents offered and the Guest accepted an opportunity to take a later flight, so she had time to find other accommodations for the animal. Our records indicate she was scheduled to take the 10:39 am flight on Nov. 21, but ended up taking the 7:42 pm flight that day.
“We did offer the Guest a voucher for the inconvenience, but we never heard back from her.”
The airline also included a link to their policy on emotional support animals, which doesn’t allow reptiles, rodents, ferrets or spiders.