If this Instagram-famous peacock taught us anything, it's that traveling with an exotic emotional support animal can quickly turn into a complete nightmare. But Baxter seems to have escaped a far worse fate than Pebbles, an emotional support hamster who was reportedly flushed down an airport toilet when her owner was told she couldn't take her on a flight.
Belen Aldecosea, a 21-year-old college student who was living in Baltimore, told the Miami Herald that she had cleared her hamster Pebbles as an emotional support animal through Spirit Airlines before bringing her along on a flight home to Miami Beach. But after calling the airline twice prior to the flight, then getting the animal cleared after checking in, Aldecosea claims she was chased down by a Spirit employee who told her rodents were not allowed.
Frantic, she said she booked a later flight and tried to rent a car to drive from Baltimore to South Florida, but seeing as she was flying on November 21—the height of the busy Thanksgiving travel season—no cars were available. With no friends or family to pick her up, Aldecosea says she thought about taking a Greyhound, but it would have taken too long and she needed to get back for a medical procedure.
That's when Aldecosea says an airport employee told her to let the pet go free outside, or flush her down a toilet. Rather than let her freeze to death, Aldecosea told the Herald she decided to make it quick. She went into a restroom at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, dropped Pebbles in the bowl, and flushed.
"She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet," Aldecosea told the Herald. “I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good ten minutes crying in the stall."
For its part, Spirit acknowledges that it mistakenly told Aldecosea that she could bring her pet hamster aboard its flight, but that it didn't have any part in the fateful flush.
"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," Spirit spokesman Derek Dombrowski said in a statement to the Herald.
Now Aldecosea, who says she "didn’t have any other options," is reportedly contemplating suing the airline—arguing that it gave her bad information that forced her to send her pet to its watery grave.
"This wasn’t a giant peacock that could pose a danger to other passengers," Aledcosea's attorney, Adam Goodman, told the Herald. "This was a tiny cute harmless hamster that could fit in the palm of her hand."
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