By now you have heard of the young woman who claims she flushed her hamster down an airport toilet because an airline employee told her to after she couldn't board a plane with the creature. You probably have some questions!
We're here to unpack this thing for you.
Here's the basic information.
Belen Aldecosea, 21, said she'd called Spirit Airlines twice to confirm that her hamster, Pebbles, a doctor-certified comfort animal, would be allowed on the Nov. 21 flight. Both she and the airline said Spirit told her it would be fine.
But, upon arriving at the Baltimore airport, Aldecosea said a Spirit Airlines employee refused the animal entry — and suggested she flush her pet down the toilet so she could get on the plane.
Aldecosea's friends were hours away on campus. She contacted at least six car rental companies, but it was a busy Thanksgiving holiday week and none were available — and she was too young to rent one anyway. She was also in pain due to a benign golf ball–sized growth on her neck.
So. She flushed the hamster.
Aldecosea got Pebbles earlier that fall, after she developed the growth on her neck which led to a cancer scare that was later revealed to be benign. She withdrew from school and booked a flight to go home to South Florida to get it removed.
As for Spirit — the airline admits that a "reservation representative, unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal."
Rodents of all kinds, as well as ferrets, spiders, snakes, and other reptiles, are not permitted on Spirit Airlines flights.
But wait. Spirit Airlines also said it rebooked Aldecosea on a later flight — which departed about nine hours later — "so she had time to find other accommodations for the animal."
"Our records indicate the Guest took that later flight with no further incident," Spirit Airlines spokesperson Derek Dombrowski told BuzzFeed News. "We did offer the Guest a voucher for the inconvenience, but we never heard back from her."
It was after she accepted the later flight and was grappling with what to do that Aldecosea claims an employee suggested she either set her pet free outside...or flush it. Spirit said that no employee told her to flush the pet.
"It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life," Dombrowski said.
So there we have it. We'll keep you updated with any developments. In the meantime here are some hamsters from Uruguay.
Julia Reinstein is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Julia Reinstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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