A US woman who was due to fly home from Pennsylvania to South Florida was forced to flush her emotional support hamster down the toilet at the airport.
Let’s start at the beginning.
Belen Aldecosea suffered a cancer scare during her first university term, when she developed a painful neck growth the size of a golf ball. She decided to seek help in the form of an emotional support hamster called Pebbles that lived in her dorm room.
In November, the growth was thankfully declared benign. However it was still painful, so she booked a trip back home with her family in the hope that she could have the growth removed.
“The Airline Confirmed It Was Fine”
Aldecosea booked a flight from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport to Fort Lauderdale with American airline Spirit.
As the hamster had provided her with so much support, she called the airline on two occasions to check she was okay to fly with her, providing Pebbles was in a regulation cage. They confirmed that she was both times.
— David Ovalle (@DavidOvalle305) February 8, 2018
However, when she arrived at the airport on the day, it was a different story.
Although the first Spirit representative checked Aldecosea in with no problem, as she approached security, she was chased by another Spirit employee who said that rodents were not allowed in the cabin or the cargo hold. Pebbles couldn’t get on the plane.
Not sure what to do, the college student postponed her flight to later that day so she could work out her next steps. But with no one in town that would be able to pick Pebbles up, her options were limited.
“I Didn’t Have Any Other Options”
It was at this time that Aldecosea said a Spirit employee suggested letting Pebbles free outside or flushing her down the toilet. Spirit denies this claim.
After hours of deliberation, and no time to make the days-long trip via coach, Aldecosea had a decision to make. Considering the fact that letting the hamster out would only leave her cold, confused and likely to be killed in traffic, Aldecosea decided to end her life sooner rather than later and flushed her down a toilet at the airport.
“I didn’t have any other options,” Aldecosea said, “She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet. I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”
Spirit has admitted they provided the wrong information prior to the flight, but also said 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.”
Support Animal Requests Up 75%
This brand new controversy comes in the wake of a story last month where a United Airlines passenger was banned from taking her emotional support peacock on-board. But in that instance, the passenger was advised in advance she would not be able to bring the peacock onto the plane.
— Annabel Crabb (@annabelcrabb) February 6, 2018
Following that well-publicised incident, airlines got significantly tougher on passengers wishing to travel with emotional support animals.
United Airlines has released a list of banned animals, including ferrets, rodents, snakes and reptiles. They say that requests for emotional support pets have risen by 75% in the last year, with over 76,000 cases in 2017.
Passengers will have to provide at least 48 hours notice and be able to show that their animal is trained to behave properly in a public setting.