A student who flushed her hamster down the toilet when Spirit told her she couldn’t fly home with it, is now attempting to sue the airline for causing emotional distress.
Belen Aldecosea claims she ‘didn’t have any other options’ but to kill her pet Pebbles rather than miss her flight back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in November after staff informed her that rodents were not allowed aboard.
The 21-year-old says she had called the budget airline twice to check she was allowed to bring her ’emotional support animal’ – a pet dwarf hamster on the flight home from college in Baltimore, the Miami Herald reports.
Belen Aldecosea claims she ‘didn’t have any other options’ but to kill her pet Pebbles rather than miss her flight back to Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in November
Poor Pebbles the hamster (pictured) was killed by his owner, who decided to flush him down the toilet rather than miss her flight
She says on both occasions she was assured her furry companion was fine to fly.
But when she arrived at the Baltimore–Washington International Airport on November 21, staff told her she couldn’t board with Pebbles.
Aldecosea says she accepted a later flight on Spirit to figure out what to do with her hamster, and claims she contacted six rental car agencies to try and hire a car, but says that every single company was out of cars.
She told the Herald that a Greyhound bus would have taken days to get to South Florida – and she had to get home for a medical appointment.
All her friends were hours away at her then-university Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
Aldecosea is now considering suing Spirit Airlines for emotional trauma after they told her she couldn’t bring her hamster on board
While she was panicking, she alleges that a member of Spirit staff suggested she either let Pebbles go free outside or flush her pet down the toilet.
With her flight boarding soon, Aldecosea decided she didn’t want to let the hamster go free where it could freeze or possibly starve to death.
So she decided she would flush the living creature down the toilet.
‘She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,’ Aldecosea said. ‘I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.’
She is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit, blaming them for allegedly pressuring her into killing the animal.
Spirit denies that a staff member ever advised the volleyball star to kill her pet, although they did concede that an employee mistakenly told her, over the phone, that Pebbles would be allowed on the flight.
Aldecosea, a Miami Beach High graduate, insists her hamster (pictured) was a medically certified emotional support animal, which she got after developing a large but benign growth in her neck last year
Aldecosea said she spent ten minutes crying in the stall after flushing her hamster down the toilet (stock image)
‘To be clear, at no point did any of our agents suggest this guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal,’ spokesman Derek Dombrowski said.
The airline have since offered her a voucher for a free flight to certain cities, which Aldecosea declined.
The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration allows hamsters past security; the cages are sent through the X-ray while the owners hold the animals in their hands as the walk through the metal detectors.
But it’s the airlines that decide if the animals are allowed aboard and most carriers, while they will allow more typical emotional support animals such as dogs and cats, won’t allow rodents over health and safety concerns.
Aldecosea, a Miami Beach High graduate, insists her hamster was a medically certified emotional support animal, which she got after developing a large but benign growth in her neck last year.
‘She was so loving. It was like she knew I needed somebody,’ she said.
Now a student at Texas State University, Aldecosea had been flying back to get the lump from her neck removed when she ran into trouble with Spirit.
While guide dogs have been occasional flyers for years, there have recently been a surge of emotional-support animals. Federal regulations allow them, as long as they are not too big or exotic – but airlines can ask for a doctor’s note verifying that the passenger needs the animal.
Fowl play: This is Dexter the peacock, whose owner, a Brooklyn artist, attempted to take him on board a United Airlines flight as an emotional support animal – but was denied
Airlines are convinced that some emotional support animals abuse the rules, especially when most passengers often have to pay $125 or more each way to bring a small pet on board.
United Airlines says that it has witnessed a 75 percent year-over-year increase in customers bringing emotional support animals on board, which has in turn led to a significant increase in onboard incidents involving animals.
According to the US Department of Transportation’s policy concerning ‘unusual service animals,’ they should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and airlines are urged to consider each animal’s size, weight, state and foreign country restrictions, and whether or not the animal would pose a direct threat, or cause a disruption on a flight.
Recently, a prominent Brooklyn artist ruffled feathers at Newark Liberty International Airport when she was refused permission to board a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles with Dexter, her emotional support peacock.
The passenger, identified by DailyMail.com as the critically acclaimed Bushwick-based photographer and performance artist Ventiko, reportedly offered to pay for a second seat to accommodate Dexter.
She is said to have argued that she had a right to bring him on board as her emotional support animal.