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Woman Claims an Airline Made Her Flush Her Hamster Down an Airport Toilet

There's been a whole lot of noise lately around the fact that major airlines are cracking down on the kinds of emotional support and service animals they will allow on board, forcing customers to jump through even more hoops to ensure their fluffy companions can fly with them. And while one might reasonably assume their "emotional support peacock" might get denied at the gate, you'd think a cute and harmless hamster wouldn't cause as much of a fuss.

However, in a tragic turn of events, a Florida woman who tried to bring her pet dwarf hamster, Pebbles, with her ended up flushing the fur ball down an airport toilet after Spirit Airlines reportedly refused to let it onboard, and was allegedly encouraged to do so by airline employees.

Last fall, ahead of an emergency trip home from college, 21-year-old Belen Aldecosa called Spirit twice to make sure it was cool that she bring along her tiny pet, which had been certified by a doctor as an emotional support animal, according the TheMiami Herald. The airline mistakenly told her Pebbles was allowed, but when she showed up to the airport with Pebbles in a small cage, she faced a serious dilemma: A Spirit employee broke the news that rodents actually weren't allowed on the company's planes.

Her friends and family were hours away at school and wouldn't be able to fetch the animal in time for her, so she pushed her flight back and tried renting a car, but was denied because of her age. That's when, she claims, a Spirit employee suggested either setting Pebbles free outside or flushing it down a toilet. She hated the idea of her freezing in the cold or getting smushed by a car outside more, so she opted for the latter option.

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

And then, in an instant, Pebbles went to the big ol' hamster wheel in the... bowels of the Baltimore International Airport septic system.

A few days after the sad incident, Aledecosea emailed Spirit complaining about what happened, and they responded by offering her vouchers for free flights. She turned them down, and is now considering suing the airline for giving her the conflicting information that led to her pet's ultimate demise. Spirit has owned up to the fact that it mistakenly told Aledecosea that Pebbles would be allowed on board, but adamantly denies that any of its employees recommended ending its life in a airport toilet bowl. 

"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," a Spirit spokesman said. "It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life."

So to anyone who was really hoping to bring their gerbil on their next faraway vacation, let this be some food for thought.

RIP Pebbles.

h/tMiami Herald

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Joe McGauley is a senior writer for Thrillist. Follow him @jwmcgauley.