Twenty-one-year-old Belen Aldecosea is blaming Spirit Airlines for leading her to make the emotional decision to flush her beloved pet hamster in an airport toilet after denying it on a flight.
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According to the Miami Herald, the Florida college student said she called the airlines twice to ensure she could bring her pet dwarf hamster Pebble along. The airline allegedly said that wouldn’t be a problem.
But when she arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport on Nov. 21, staffers refused to let the animal on the flight. Aldecosea alleges an airline representative suggested she flush her pet hamster down the toilet.
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“This is a really tiny, small innocuous animal that doesn’t cause problems. Really, the airlines and TSA shouldn’t have given her any problems about it if she had the appropriate medical documentation,” Aldecosea’s lawyer Adam Goodman told NBC News Thursday.
Aldecosea, who was attending Wilson College in Pennsylvania at the time, had to fly home to Florida because she had a benign but painful growth on her neck and was withdrawing from school to get it checked out, Goodman said.
She tried and failed to find alternative transportation options home, but she was too young to rent a car and there were limited choices during the Thanksgiving holiday travel season, Goodman added.
“Spirit told her what to do. She thought she was following the rules,” he said. “Ultimately, the airline didn’t provide what they said they were going to provide for her.”
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Aldecosea told the Miami Herald that the whole ordeal was "horrifying."
“I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall," she said.
Spirit Airlines has strongly denied the accusation that a staffer suggested she flush the pet hamster.
“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,” airline spokesman Derek Dombrowski said in a statement to NBC News. “It is incredibly disheartening to hear this Guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.”
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On its website, Spirit states that it “does not accept snakes, other reptiles, rodents, ferrets, and spiders.”
Dombrowski also said the reservation representative Aldecosea spoke to on the phone prior to her arrival at the airport misinformed her that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on the flight. The airline later offered Aldecosea a voucher.
Goodman told NBC News he and Aldecosea were “going to look into all legal remedies and make a decision.”