Woman Claims Spirit Airlines Told Her To Flush Emotional Support Hamster Down Toilet

There has been a huge rise in the number of people traveling with emotional support animals, to the point that both Delta and United have added further restrictions on traveling with such animals. The new regulations don’t make it impossible to travel with an emotional support animal, though they do require more paperwork.

Spirit Airlines is in the news for a November 21, 2017 incident, during which a 21 year old college student claims the airline told her to flush her emotional support hamster down the toilet.

Belen Aldecosea was trying to fly from Baltimore to Fort Lauderdale with her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles. She called the airline twice before her trip to make sure it would be okay if she brought the hamster onboard, and the phone representatives assured her that would be okay (Spirit Airlines doesn’t deny that they gave her incorrect information).

While it doesn’t excuse the incorrect information given by the phone representatives, I’d note that Spirit Airlines’ webpage about emotional support animals specifically states that the airline doesn’t accept snakes, other reptiles, rodents, ferrets, or spiders.

When the woman arrived at the airport she was able to check-in without issue (the ticket agent even saw the hamster in the carrier). However, as she headed towards the security checkpoint a Spirit Airlines representative came running after her and told her she wouldn’t be able to take the animal onboard (per their policy). The passenger claims that the Spirit Airlines representative suggested that she flush Pebbles down the airport toilet or just let her free, though this is something that Spirit Airlines denies.

She really needed to get back to South Florida due to a medical issue she had (she had a golf-ball size growth in her throat, which they learned was benign). She tried renting a car, but there were none available, and she was also denied for her age, after trying six different agencies. She also had no friends that she could leave Pebbles with. Spirit Airlines rebooked her on a later flight, so after agonizing for hours she felt like she had no option, and decided to flush Pebbles down the toilet, thinking that was more humane than letting her out free in the cold. Per the Miami Herald:

“She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” Aldecosea said. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall.”

I feel really bad for her. I know it’s easy to think that a hamster isn’t a “real” pet, though there’s no denying people can develop relationships with such animals, and I couldn’t imagine having to flush my pet down the toilet. I certainly couldn’t have brought myself to do it. However, I understand the tough spot she was in, as she felt like she had no other option, she had a medical procedure she had to return to Florida for, and she may not have had the financial resources to just no show for the ticket, get a hotel, book another ticket, etc.

The passenger is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit Airlines:

Aldecosea, 21, of Miami Beach, is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit over the conflicting instructions that wound up pressuring her into making an anguished decision with a pet certified by her doctor as an emotional support animal. She shared her story with the Miami Herald weeks after the story of an emotional support peacock — denied entrance to a United Airlines flight — went viral on the Internet.

This case is much different, said her South Florida attorney, Adam Goodman. “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,” he said.

Airlines are notorious for giving our incorrect information, yet they’re rarely held accountable. I do think this would be an interesting case. On a recorded line multiple representatives gave incorrect information, so shouldn’t the airline be held responsible for that? I suspect it’s going to be tougher to prove damages here than if we were talking about a straight monetary loss, though on some level I do think the airline is responsible here.

I feel horribly for the woman and the decision she had to make. Hopefully Spirit (and other airlines) do a better job of making sure all passengers know the correct rules regarding this.

What do you think — is Spirit Airlines completely at fault here for giving incorrect information, is the blame shared (since Spirit does publish this online), or…?

Comments

  1. I would never dispose of a living animal like that, particularly if I was attached as she claimed to be. Zero chance. No excuse. I don’t care if I was missing my flight, etc. There would always be another alternative. 100% blame on her in my opinion. Despicable

  2. The peacock episode revealed
    a) Pandora’s Box of nutters who apparently don’t know any other humans who could look after their pet rodents / spiders / iguanas / boa constrictors, or
    b) people who smelled cash from lawsuits over emotional distress, or
    C) people who were traumatized by U.S. airlines inconsistently enforcing their policies and giving out wrong information

    C seems like the most logical answer, right?

  3. I don’t believe this story. It would be far more reasonable for her to hide the hamster in her bag than to flush it down the toilet.

    Really, flush it down the toilet? We’re meant to believe that is what she was told to do?

  4. Totally unbelievable, but I seriously laughed out loud when I got to the part where she actually (allegedly) flushed her hamster — the one on which her emotional well-being absolutely depends — down an airport toilet.

  5. I have a pet horse which is my emotional support animal. I want to bring him on the flight otherwise I may have a panic attack! Oh wait – it’s only on Spirit that I have panic attacks. I’ll fly on my magic carpet instead.

  6. Surely there is some animal cruelty law that she could be prosecuted under. If she did what she said she did, that’s horrible and inexcusable no matter the circumstances.

  7. This is why I choose amphibians as my emotional support animal

    Infinitely more flushable

    I only jest because there is zero chance that she flushed the hamster.

    At worst she would have released it into the wild

    That said, Spirit should pay for their horrific customer service
    Don’t tell a passenger they can bring a hamster if they cannot do so

  8. This is why the West is losing all credibility. We’ve won wars without people needing emotional support animals. Get real. The rest of humanity, particularly people dealing with life and death issues daily, view this sort of issue as an example of western decadence and self indulgence. And yes it smells of fake news. Hamstergate!
    I’m sure Spirit could dream up an ancillary charge for hamsters.

  9. @OK216 Animal cruelty?

    Unless you’re vegan and don’t touch any animal products, you can’t really judge her. Humans kill millions upon millions of animals per year in far more gruesome ways for food.

  10. Earlier this week, an Amtrak train from NYC to Miami crashed in Columbia, SC. Therefore, there is almost certainly train service between Baltimore and Fort Lauderdale or a city close to Fort Lauderdale.

  11. That is odd, I expected Baltimore to have Humane Society type of service that takes care of abandoned pets. Simple call would have resolved this, no?

    Or even simpler, Craigslist search for “pet sitter” brings up plenty of ads… maybe she could not afford it, since she is flying ULCC?

    Or, how about paying full pet fee and getting the the precious cargo into, ahem, cargo? Or is that more expensive than renting a car (like she attempted)?

    I can’t believe myself: typing comment to utter nonsense and fake news. But internet will be up in arms over airline cruelty.

  12. Since there are apparently evidence to support that she did show up with a hamster, and that she did fly without it, I assume the story is real (though not that anyone- even at Spirit airlines- told her to flush the hamster)

    That said — no, I have no empathy for this woman. I think she is a lying psycho who should be prevented from ever being responsible for another living thing. Or better yet, she should be flushed.

  13. There is an Amtrak station at BWI airport and you can get to Miami with just one transfer at Union Station in DC. She should have taken that.

    If her hamster was such a viral emotional support animal, how was she able to board the flight and survive without it?

  14. I want to know why 1) She hasn’t been charged with animal cruelty, 2) why she hasn’t been institutionalized?

  15. she was in fort lauderdale, they rebooked her on a flight 9 HOURS LATER. you are telling me you couldnt get something figered out in 9 hours? florida is not big enough that her friends were more than 3 hours (tops) from the airport.

  16. I’m conflicted on this, a) I would never flush an animal down a toilet b) spirit gave completely wrong information
    C) she did have an unknown growth on her, so it is understandable why she would want to see a medical professional
    D) perhaps she simply didn’t know of an alternative
    E) this sucks, either way
    If it’s true, holy s&#t
    If it’s not, what psycho say this

  17. the whole story sounds sketchy af… and even if her story were true, how’d she going to prove it? did she take pics of the final goodbye?

  18. Firstly I love most animals, however the vast majority of these cases involve Americans and this “ I need my xxx for emotional support” has to stop. Most of the time is BS

    Then she wants to take legal action for hearsay, as someone may have said something causing her emotional damage

    Many people are intent on making fraudulent claims thanks in part, to social media

  19. Only In America. What a disgrace you are lady. What is wrong with these people ffs. Give me Australia anytime.

  20. Mark B – This incident is obviously insane but the term emotional support animal merely formalises an activity that has been done throughout human history.

    Just like most people have extreme emotional bonds with other people, many have them with animals. I know I personally would have struggled immensely after the death of my mother if I didn’t have my dog for comfort.

  21. If such passenger like this 21 Years Old Aldecosea, with a prescription from a Certified Doctor is carrying a paper saying that need a pet on board for emotional support allegedly says indirectly that this person’s psychological behavior is dependent on some living being(in this case pet) around/with her. At the first place such a young passenger in need to ESAN should not be even allowed to travel alone at the first place. If she will feel nervous even if the pet being with her on board and cause trouble to other passengers n crew during the flight, it would be more troublesome for the others. Like @Jon said it sounds like a fake new. I would agree to that because it looks like some people are trying to test how an airline would react to such allegation in order plan something to cash out from the situation.

  22. hahahaha this made my day. This kind of naive nonsense is only possible in the US.
    1) The fact someone needs a hamster for emotional support
    2) The suggestion to flush it
    3) She actually flushing it.

    What a joke.

  23. The correct title for this should read “Woman Seeking Attention and Lawsuit Money Claims Spirit Airlines Told Her To Flush Emotional Support Hamster Down Toilet”.

  24. Why would she not have just simply left the hamster in it’s cage and let someone find it and turn it over to the humane society or simply take it home? Why was ‘flushing’ it the only answer? Was she carrying the thing in her pocket?

  25. How do you go from ‘I cant get on my flight and can’t hire a car’ to ‘I’ll just flush my pet down the toilet’?!? Were there no other options available to her? Donate the pet to a local pet store? Give the pet away on Craigslist or something? Take a bus or train?

  26. Seriously, why didn’t she just hide it in her backpack and call it a day. Would TSA have allowed that?

  27. She should look on the bright side, at least she wasn’t trying to flush an emotional support peacock down the toilet. Life’s rich tapestry hasn’t yet presented me with that problem, but I imagine it is a real challenge.

    Did she need the small or large button to flush the hamster?

  28. Most of these people should just get a stuffed animal and cuddle with that. Geez. Animals unless they are small and in cage shouldn’t be in the passenger compartment.

  29. If this lady really did flush the hamster down the toilet she is a f**king idiot. Was the airport empty that she couldn’t have just asked if anyone would want a hamster in a carrier? She should be charged with animal cruelty.

  30. If these people really need these animals as emotional support, I don’t want them (people) anywhere near me on a plane. Anyone who can only remain calm with a hamster is still far too nuts to be in public.

  31. I see a business opportunity here. Someone needs to create AirZoo. If you cannot leave your animal at home that is the only way to fly. Bring it on all the hamsters, peacocks, snakes, dogs, cats and all the owners that say they need emotional support. Putting them all together on the same plane will make the perfect zoo.

  32. I hope this person doesn’t murder her future kids.

    As we all know, parents love their kids. If you are flying with your kids and you get separated from your kids, you naturally get emotional. This passenger is ok with killing their emotional support by flushing them out the toilet so it is not farfetched that she could murder her kids. Don’t laugh. Remember Andrea Yates who killed all of her kids in the bathtub?

    She had 9 hours to think of hamster care yet she decided to kill her pet. Then she flew without the emotional support animal. She did ok on that flight. I didn’t hear of any suicides on the flight or hijackings to Cuba (take this plane to Cuba or else!).

    She needs punished for animal cruelty.

  33. I am allergic to emotional support animals and airlines can’t do anything. So I had to endure sneezing “ah-bbbooo-shiw(t)” all flight long.

    #hamsterlivesmatter
    #hamstertoo

  34. There used to be a fish hotel at Schiphol airport. Goudvissenhotel. You could leave your fish and hopefully collect it on your return assuming it hadn’t been eaten
    It was a pretty big aquarium

  35. Hopefully her attorney is not going to take this to trial if the responses here are any indication of the jury outcome. She is a very twisted human being if she decided to drown a defenseless animal instead of pursuing a whole lot of other options including just leaving the cage in the airport for staff to find and call the local animal shelter authorities. I find the story, if true, disturbing.

  36. Can someone from US enlighten me on why trivial medical procedure like biopsy requires 1077 mile trip? Is Florida that better/cheaper for healthcare that plane tickets/time used are a negligible consideration?

  37. Maybe the poor airport maintenance worker who had to clean the poor dead hamster out of the inevitably clogged toilet will sue her in turn

  38. @Marija
    The only reason she might have to go to Florida for a procedure like that would be if she’s a Florida resident and is receiving Florida Medicaid. Otherwise Baltimore has Johns Hopkins, with world class medical facilities and staff.

  39. Reminds me of the “Armageddon” hamster story, ha!
    I can´t believe not a single person in the airport was found to take care of the pet and bring it back home. No excuse. If it is true it is awful.

  40. I’ve never heard such a load of drivel in my life.

    However, if there are any true elements in this tall tale – such as the woman really existing and that she really did euthanase a healthy animal in a bizarrely sadistic manner, then we are looking at a young woman who needs to be assessed urgently for an antisocial personality disorder.

  41. Remember folks, if the cabin air supply fails, oxygen masks will be provided. You open the air supply by pulling the mask towards you. Be sure to fit your own mask before helping other passengers and hamsters around you.

  42. I think she should be charged with pet abuse if this is true. There has to have been someone in that airport who would have took the hamster home to their kids. Or maybe leave the cage with the hamster in the restroom and hope for the best. At least the little guy wouldn’t be killed at your own hands. Unbelievable – she MUST have mental health issues!

  43. She’s not the first to come crawling out of the woodwork looking for some walking away money or free tickets. The allegation that an employee suggested the flushing remedy is laughable. The whole story is full of holes.

  44. “Emotional Support Animals”….. Peacocks? Hamsters? How Trump got elected becomes very clear….

  45. IF this is true….Spirit Airlines is very mean. Not just low life and crappy like we already knew them to be.

    IF this is true…. like all “support animal” people, she is a moron and deserved it. The animal didn’t deserve it, but she did.

  46. I feel bad for admitting this but I giggled when I saw the title.

    However the passenger should be done for animal abuse if she really did flush a live animal down the toilet.

    I fail to see how Spirit is at fault for her flushing the poor hamster down the toilet.
    I would have taken the hamster home or would have flew with and airline that accepts them.

    If it really was an emotional support animal she seemed to be able to get rid of it easily and fly.

    Either this is a load of lies or she’s a cold hearted person.

  47. WHAT AN ABSOLUTE IDIOT !!!!!! who the hell flushes their pet down a toilet how inhuman is this and by no means is this Spirit fault as they did well to rebook her on a later flight and even if she had to get back to Florida couldn’t she have taken the hamster to a animal shelter and then come back and get him or just leave him at the animal shelter she obviously didn’t love the hamster otherwise she would have thought of a solution it is disgusting she kills an Animal like this. Lucky why are you giving her sympathy she does not deserve it are you saying you would flush your pet down the toilet?

  48. Thank you so much for the best laugh I’ve had in ages. And while I was horrified when I got to the part where she actually DID it, I’m still chuckling. What a total mental case.

    @Jason: I almost peed when reading your comment that you would flush yourself down the toilet before flying Spirit. Thank you!

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