CLEVELAND– The woman who was removed from a plane to Cleveland with her emotional support squirrel spoke with FOX 8 News Wednesday morning.
The Frontier Airlines flight from Orlando to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport was delayed nearly two hours Tuesday night.
A spokesperson for the airline said the reservation indicated the woman was bringing an emotional support animal, but did not say it was a squirrel. When she was asked to get off the plane, she refused and Orlando police were called, Frontier said. All the passengers had to deboard.
Cindy Torok said she had a letter from her doctor and a letter from the Americans with Disabilities Act before bringing Daisy, an 11-week-old squirrel, on board. She said her daughter also called Frontier ahead of time to get clearance.
She said she made it through TSA and into her seat when Frontier forced her to get off.
“They said, ‘Either you walk off the plane or I’m going to arrest you for trespassing, and we will take that squirrel,'” Torok said. “I said, ‘You’re not taking my squirrel. Sorry, you’re not. I refuse. You will not take my baby from me.'”
Torok, who also owns lizards and bearded dragons, said she got the squirrel three weeks ago to help with her anxiety in crowds.
“I was treated very poorly. I was called a liar by one of the stewardesses,” Torok said.
She said five cops escorted her off the plane. She took the squirrel home, where her other daughter is caring for it.
She said her daughter was reimbursed and Frontier gave her a voucher for another flight. Torok, who spent much of her life in Madison, landed in Cleveland Wednesday morning.
According to the ADA National Network, documentation is required for emotional support animals to be permitted for air travel. However, airlines are not required to transport unusual animals, like snakes, reptiles or rodents. Frontier Airlines said rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed on flights.
TSA said it is not responsible to determine if an animal is permitted on a particular airline, releasing the following statement:
“The TSA will screen animals brought to a checkpoint if it does not pose a danger to our officers.
“The squirrel was screened the same way someone’s cat would be screened. The container was sent through the x-ray machine while the passenger carried the squirrel through the walk-through metal detector. In this way we could be sure that there were no explosives or other prohibited items hidden inside the container. Once the TSA determines that an animal and its carrying case do not pose a threat to the aviation system, then it is up to the airline to determine if the animal may fly or not.”
Torok said she plans to contact an attorney.