Monday, 18 June, 2018

Student flushed 'emotional support hamster' after airline refusal

Belen Aldecosea was just trying to return home to Florida with her pet hamster to deal with a medical issue but she says conflicting information from Spirit Airlines led her to flush the emotional support animal down an airport toilet Student flushes emotional support hamster down toilet after airline refuses to allow rodent on flight
Lindsey Cook | 11 February, 2018, 05:29

Aldecosea says she that had twice verified with the airline that her dwarf hamster Pebbles, as a doctor-certified emotional support animal, was allowed on the plane.

She says an airline representative suggested flushing Pebbles down an airport toilet, a step that Spirit denies.

When Aldecosea said she had no one to take care of the hamster for her, she claims a rep for the airline suggested she flush the animal down the toilet or let it go free, the Herald reported.

The 21-year-old said an airline employee advised her to either flush the animal or let it loose outside, adding that she chose to kill it as it was 'more humane'.

The airline concedes that an employee told Aldecosea over the phone that the hamster would be allowed on the flight, but says that the employee was mistaken and their policy does not allow rodents.

Spirit Airlines strongly denied the allegation that employees told her to flush the pet.

Aldecosea is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit over the conflicting instructions that she was given as well as the emotional anguish she experienced. "It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet", Aldecosea said.

Under America's Air Carrier Access Act, certain emotional support animals are allowed to travel with their owners on flights, as long as the pet has the right documentation, isn't a threat and doesn't interfere with others.

She also claimed that a member of staff told her to flush the animal down the toilet - which she did.

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This news comes after United Airlines denied an emotional support peacock, Dexter, from boarding a plane. Was flushing the animal down the toilet really the only option here? "I sat in a stall for about 15 minutes and just cried and cried".

Most major USA airlines, however, don't allow rodents on flights over concerns about health and safety. "I was emotional. I was crying". Belen had gotten Pebbles a year ago, after she developed a painful growth on her neck that she thought was cancerous.

"I didn't have any other options", she told the newspaper.

She was a student at Wilson College in Pennsylvania at the time and is now a student in Texas, he said.

Unfortunately, she had no relatives or friends to hand in Pebbles to.

But the woman's lawyer, Adam Goodman, said this case is different though as the hamster was "harmless" as opposed to a "giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers".

The Transportation Safety Administration allows hamsters to pass security, but it's up to airlines to decide if they're allowed on boards.

"Hamsters are welcome in our checkpoint", the agency said in a statement. The container of the hamster goes through the X-ray while the owner holds the animal and walks through the metal detector so the creature is not exposed to radiation. Most of them, including American, Delta and United, to no allow rodents out of safety and health concerns.

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