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Bad info from Spirit Air led me to flush pet hamster down airport toilet, student says

David Ovalle, Miami Herald on

Published in News & Features

Several days before, she twice called Spirit to verify that the hamster could fly. The rep told her it was fine -- an assurance that Spirit, after reviewing the conversations, agrees was given to Aldecosea. "Our reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal on Spirit Airlines," spokesman Dombrowski wrote in an email.

When Aldecosea showed up that day, she said, the first Spirit agent checked her emotional support pet in with no problem. Pebbles was in a small cage that fit regulations for carry-on luggage.

"They gave me the wrong information more than once," said Aldecosea, now a student at Texas State University.

But as she walked toward the security checkpoint, a second Spirit employee chased her down, hollering that rodents were not allowed. She said Spirit agents told her she could not put the hamster in the cargo hold either.

After hectic discussions, an outraged Aldecosea accepted a flight later that day to try and figure out what to do with Pebbles. But she had no friends or family in town to pick up Pebbles. It was then, Aldecosea insists, that an employee suggested letting Pebbles go free outside or flushing her down the toilet.

For hours, Aldecosea said, she struggled with what to do. She contacted at least six rental car agencies, but no cars were available during the busy holiday season and she wasn't old enough to rent a car anyway. A Greyhound bus would have taken days to get to South Florida.

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With her flight boarding soon, she pondered whether to just let Pebbles free outside. She said she considered it more humane to end her life right away, and not let her run around scared in the cold, only to die getting hit by a car.

"I didn't have any other options," she said.

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