09 February, 2018
Belen Aldecosea was flying home to Florida in November after a cancer scare, reports the Herald, and called the airline in advance to make sure her emotional support hamster could be on the flight from Baltimore.
"She was scared", Aldecosea told the Miami Herald. Aldecosea and Pebbles were allowed to check in for their flight without a hitch (emotional support animals are technically allowed to fly at the discretion of the airline in question).
That's when things took a turn for Belen, 21, who claims that an airport employee suggested flushing the hamster down the toilet since she was hours away from campus and had no way to take Pebbles home.
Dombrowski denied that an employee suggested that Aldecosea flush the hamster down the toilet. "It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet".
But with no other options, Aldecosea said she felt it was more humane to end her life that way, rather than letting her go and risking her getting hit by a auto.
"I was emotional, I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall", Aldecosea recounts.
Aldecosea is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit over the incident.
In her account to the Herald, Aldecosea says tried everything imaginable, including renting a vehicle (she says there weren't any available) and reaching out to her friends (they were hours away back at school, she says).
"This wasn't a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers", said Aldecosea's lawyer, Adam Goodman, referring to a widely circulated video showing an "emotional support" peacock at a U.S. airport.
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Aldecosa's attorney told the Miami Herald the hamster could fit in the palm of the pet owner's hand.
Spirit Airlines has since come out to deny any wrongdoing, saying that while Aldecosea was misinformed initially by the airline initially, a gate representative did not suggest mercy killing Pebbles.
2018 has so far featured a surprising number of stories about emotional support animals at airports.
With her flight boarding soon, she pondered whether to let Pebbles free outside.
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.
The debate over what counts as an emotional-support animal, and which animals should be allowed on commercial flights, has become a near-crisis for airlines.
"She [Pebbles] was scared". While many airlines allow dogs and cats, major airlines like United, Delta, and American do not allow rodents for safety and health reasons. So she did the unthinkable: she flushed her pet. So she did what she felt was the most humane choice.
Belen insisted she considered other options like auto hire or taking a coach, but was left with little choice.