A college student is considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit Airlines after she alleges an airline representative told her she wasn’t allowed to bring her hamster on board and suggested she flush her pet down the toilet.
“She [the hamster] was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet,” the 21-year-old student, Belen Aldecosea, said according to the Miami Herald on Thursday. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall,” Aldecosea recounts.
“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.
She decided flushing the animal was the humane option.
Aldecosea is now thinking about filing a lawsuit against the airline, alleging that Spirit pressured her into making the decision.
The incident occurred in November, but Aldecosea didn’t share her story until after United Airlines refused to let a passenger bring her “emotional support” peacock on board in a similar scenario.
Aldecosea’s lawyer, Adam Goodman, sees the cases very differently however. “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, the Herald reports. Goodman will represent Aldecosea should she decide to follow through with a lawsuit.
A Spirit airlines spokesperson did acknowledge the airline had originally told Aldecosea that she could bring her pet hamster on board, but that it had been a mistake and they informed her shortly thereafter that the airline didn’t allow hamsters. Airline spokesman Derek Dombrowski denied the allegation that a Spirit employee recommended Aldecosea flush her hamster down the toilet. “To be clear, at no point did any of our agents suggest this guest (or any other for that matter) should flush or otherwise injure an animal,” he said.
Individual airlines can set whatever guidelines they wish in terms of what pets they do and do not allow on board. While many airlines allow dogs and cats, major airlines like United, Delta, and American do not allow rodents for safety and health reasons.
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