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09 February 2018, 03:42 | Cedric Leonard
Student flushes emotional support hamster down toilet after airline refuses to allow rodent on flight
Belen Aldecosea, 21, said she had previously checked twice with Spirit Airlines that she could bring Pebbles - a dwarf hamster medically acknowledged as an emotional support animal - on her journey home to Miami from university in Texas. "It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet", Aldecosea told the MiamiHerald.
A Spirit airlines spokesperson did acknowledge the airline had originally told Aldecosea that she could bring her pet hamster on board, but that it had been a mistake and they informed her shortly thereafter that the airline didn't allow hamsters. The MiamiHerald reports that when she got to the airport, she says Spirit had changed its tune and wouldn't let the pet aboard.
The 21-year-old told the paper she flushed Pebbles at an airline employee's suggestion, after running out of other options.
"I was emotional, I was crying. I sat there for a good ten minutes crying in the stall".
Aldecosea said she's now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit for giving her conflicting information about whether her pet would be allowed to fly alongside her.
Aldecosea told the newspaper that after she called the airline to complain about the incident, Spirit offered her free travel vouchers, but that she refused to accept them. The woman, Belen Aldecosea, claims the hamster was a certified emotional-support animal.
Hamsters are not prohibited by the Transportation Security Administration, but it would have had to be taken out of its holder and carried through the security checkpoint. "Their container would typically go through the X-ray while the owner would hold the hamster as the passenger walks through the metal detector so the creature is not subjected to radiation".
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.
However, it is up to individual airlines to decide what animals are allowed on on board its planes.
The final decision to send Pebbles to a watery grave seemed more humane, she said, than letting the animal free to potentially starve to death or get struck by a vehicle. Spirit Airlines, specifically, will only allow dogs, cats and small birds on its flights, according to its customer service website. Most don't allow rodents due to health and safety concerns. After contacting six rental auto agencies and even considering taking a Greyhound bus home, which would have taken days, Belen believed flushing her pet was the most humane option.
Belen insisted she considered other options like vehicle hire or taking a coach, but was left with little choice.
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