A college student said she flushed her emotional support hamster down the toilet after Spirit Airlines refused to let her bring her furry pet on the plane.
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.
Aldecosea, who now attends Texas State University, said a Spirit Airlines employee suggested she let Pebbles free or flush it down the toilet.
But when she arrived at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport on November 21, staff told her she couldn't board with Pebbles.
"I didn't have any other options", she said, explaining that she had considered letting her "emotional support" hamster go on the grass outside of the airport, but felt that would constitute animal cruelty because the hamster would likely starve to death or be eaten by an animal.
The solution, she claims an airline representative suggested, was to flush it down a toilet at the terminal.
Aldecosea says she accepted a later flight on Spirit to figure out what to do with her hamster, and claims she contacted six rental vehicle agencies to try and hire a auto, but says that every single company was out of cars.
She said she was afraid the hamster would freeze to death or get hit by a vehicle if she let it go, so she reluctantly flushed it down an airport toilet in what she called a "horrifying" experience.
"Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the Guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines", Spirit spokesman Derek Dombrowski said via email.
Spirit denies an employee ever told the student to flush the hamster, according to the Miami Herald.
"It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly chose to end her own pet's life", Dombrowksi's statement continued.
Emotional support animals have become a controversial issue for USA airlines over recent years.
The U.S. Transportation Safety Administration has no problem with carry-on hamsters.
Aldecosea tried multiple times to get Pebbles back to her school safely.
Dombrowski denied that an employee suggested that Aldecosea flush the hamster down the toilet.
Animals on flights have become controversial in recent years.
While guide dogs have been occasional flyers for years, there have recently been a surge of emotional-support animals. "Their container would typically go through the X-ray while the owner would hold the hamster as the passenger walks through the metal detector so the creature is not subjected to radiation".
United officials also said that they had warned the woman that the bird would not be allowed to fly.
She is said to have argued that she had a right to bring him on board as her emotional support animal. "Our records indicate the Guest took that later flight with no further incident".