After the story last week of an aeroplane user trying to take their emotional support peacock on board with them, you might think airlines have pretty loose rules on taking pets on flights. According to 21 year-old Belen Aldecosea, from Miami Beach, Florida, Spirit Airlines take pets on flights very seriously. So seriously that they refused her pet dwarf hamster passage and told her to either set the hamster loose or flush it down the toilet if she wanted to catch her flight. Belen says she called ahead to check whether it would be okay for the hamster to sit in its cage on the flight and was told that that wouldn't be a problem, only to arrive at the airport and be told a different story. Apparently an unnamed Spirit employee told her to flush little Pebbles the hamster down the toilet in the bathroom at the terminal.
Aldecosea went to the Miami Herald with her story, and said she agonised over the decision for hours. She even tried to rent a car to drive the distance the flight would cover, without success, before eventually choosing the saddest option. Hamster murder. "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 Airlines issued a statement through a spokesman that acknowledged the fact she was mistakenly told the hamster could travel, but they unsurprisingly deny telling her to kill it. "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."
Disheartening is a word for it. The airline offered Belen a free flight voucher, which seems a little cheap considering she literally killed her pet for them, so the student is now considering filing a lawsuit for the incident. There's some suggestion that Pebbles might have been barred from the flight due to a crack down on the wide range of creatures claimed as therapy pets. Flight attendants are apparently struggling with the animals biting, urinating and causing aggressive conflicts after a spate of random pets being brought on and causing trouble. Adam Goldman, a Miami attorney representing Aldecosea, pushed back on any comparison between taking little Pebble and other animals like peacocks on flights - “This wasn’t a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers. This was a tiny cute harmless hamster that could fit in the palm of her hand.”