Pebbles the Hamster Finds Watery Death After Spirit Airlines Passenger Flushes Him Down a Toilet

Feb 10, 2018

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After a peacock was rejected from a recent United flight, South Florida passenger Belen Aldecosea has aired her own emotional support animal grievance against Spirit Airlines, from back in November 2017.

Aldecosea and Spirit Airlines agree that the college student had erroneously been told by customer service that she could fly home with Pebbles, her pet dwarf hamster. But Spirit, like many other airlines including United, does not allow rodents on board.

So on November 21, Aldecosea went into the bathroom at Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI) and flushed her pet down the toilet.

Why would she do such a thing? Aldecosea claims that she was chased down by a Spirit employee who told her to either set Pebbles free outdoors or flush the pet down the toilet.

“I didn’t have any other options,” Aldecosea said.

Spirit Airlines denies that any of their agents suggested Aldecosea “or any other [guest], for that matter should flush or otherwise injure an animal,” said Spirit Airlines spokesman Derek Dombrowski. “It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.”

Aldecosea initially accepted the airline’s offer to take a later flight, departing at 7pm instead of 10am, so she could find alternative arrangements for Pebbles. During that time, 21-year-old Aldecosea looked into renting a car to drive home, but claims she was too young to rent one. Her friends were too far away to come pick up the hamster.

“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.”

Aldecosea purchased Pebbles at a Petco in Pennsylvania after the student developed a medical issue during her first semester at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. Alone and afraid, she obtained a doctor’s note certifying the hamster as an emotional support animal. Aldecosea was flying home to Florida for medical treatment when the incident happened.

Spirit Airlines offered Aldecosea a voucher for a free flight to certain cities after the passenger complained about the hamster incident. Aldecosea declined the offer.

PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has issued a strong statement condemning Aldecosea’s actions.

“One phone call could have saved this animal, or some kind person at the airport could have helped,” said Daphna Nachminovitch, senior vice president of PETA. “Flushing a living being down a toilet is not only cruel but also illegal, and both the person who killed this animal and Spirit Airlines — if an employee did, in fact, advise the woman to drown the hamster — should be charged. This must have been a horrific, terrifying death.”

After hearing about the emotional support peacock incident at Newark (EWR), Aldecosea decided to share her story with the Miami Herald this week. She is also considering suing Spirit Airlines for “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 (Pebbles) was so loving. It was like she knew I needed somebody,” Aldecosea said.

Loving as Pebbles may have been, Aldecosea has moved on: her lawyer, Adam Goodman, says she has purchased a replacement hamster.  

Airlines have scrambled to rein in their emotional support animal policies in recent months after a drastic spike in animal travel and related incidents. Delta clamped down on its restrictions in January of this year, and United followed suit in February.

Featured photo by Kerrick/Getty Images

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