MIAMI - A Miami Beach woman claims a Spirit Airlines employee told her to flush her hamster down a toilet at an airport in Baltimore because the emotional support rodent wasn't allowed to fly with her.
Spirit Airlines denies telling Belen Aldecosea, 21, to flush the hamster named Pebbles. Aldecosea said she did flush Pebbles, after running out of other options.
The Miami Herald reports that before Aldecosea flew home from college to South Florida, she twice called Spirit Airlines to ensure she could bring Pebbles, her pet dwarf hamster.
Airlines spokesman Derek Dombrowski confirmed to Local 10 News that an airline representative mistakenly told Aldecosea that she could fly with her emotional support pet.
"Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines," Dombrowski said in an email. "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 the guest took that later flight with no further incident."
According to Dombrowski, no Spirit Airlines agent suggested that Aldecosea flush her pet down a toilet.
"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," he said.
Aldecosea said she's considering suing Spirit over the conflicting instructions that pressured her into making an anguished decision.
The incident comes shortly after a story about an emotional support peacock being denied entrance to a United Airlines flight went viral.
But Aldecosea's attorney, Adam Goodman, told the Herald that this case is very different.
"This wasn't a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers," Goodman said. "This was a tiny, cute, harmless hamster that could fit in the palm of her hand."
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