Airline: FLUSH your Emotional Support Animal down the Toilet

Far be it from me to call BS on a story, but this one sounds almost too fake to be real. Multiple news sources are reporting this as a real thing. A South Florida woman was told by Spirit Airlines that if she wanted to board her flight, she’d have to flush her “emotional support” hamster down the toilet. Emotional Support Animals are now finding their way into the spotlight once again 

A student named Belen Aldecosea said that she contacted Spirit Airlines twice to make sure that she could fly with the hamster, but when she arrived at Baltimore’s BWI airport she was told that she couldn’t board. Out of options she said that a Spirit Airlines employee suggested that she flush the little guy down an airport toilet. 
Reports say that she tried to even rent a car to drive to Florida before she had to take the ultimate step… sending her buddy to an untimely death.
“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.” 
She is now considering filing a lawsuit against Spirit Airlines. Spirit, of course, is vehemently denying that they would ever tell anyone to flush their pet down the toilet to board a flight.

Emotional Support?!

We’re no strangers to “Emotional Support” animals on flights, as we wrote a very controversial post on this some time ago. The dog on board the flight was barking and lunging at passengers, creating a danger to passengers. The owner ended up sleeping on the floor of the plane with the dog. Unreal.
Emotional Support Animals

Dog on a Plane

Shortly after that we also saw another “search and rescue” wiener dog… really? I mean come on…

You may have read about the emotional support peacock on a United flight. Belen’s lawyer argues that while the peacock could cause damage to other passengers, this tiny rodent would pose no such danger.

Here’s how it went down…

Belen called Spirit Airlines in the days before her pre-Thanksgiving flight, and Spirit Airlines, having listened to the calls, agrees that she did indeed receive information that she could fly with her pet. They also acknowledged that that rep “…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.
She showed up to the airport and checked in but was approached by a Spirit Airlines employee later saying that rodents were not allowed on planes, neither above nor below in the cargo hold.
Ignoring that, she went through TSA without any problem, but the Spirit employees were persistent. Her friends were hours away and with no family nearby, she struggled. She considered letting the pet free outside, but didn’t want to let it run around in the cold winter in Maryland and get eaten or hit by a car. She tried calling rental car companies to drive but all were booked solid to head to Florida. This was Thanksgiving week afterall.

Emotional Support Hamster, courtesy of

No Rodents Allowed

It’s not just Spirit Airlines. Delta, United, American and others don’t allow rodents on their flights citing safety concerns. Other emotional support animals and service animals are allowed, but no service rats, emotional support ferrets, or others.

It’s definitely a point of contention among travelers and pet lovers alike.

What would you have done, faced with this horrible decision? Continue the Discussion Below.

Author: Jon Nickel-D'Andrea

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1 Comment

  1. Its just a sad situation. Given Spirit’s general budge feel and attitude, I’m not surprised that this happened to her. That said, flushing a hamster?? Really? Like I get desperation, but that’s not well behavior no matter who you are. Maybe the hamster was actually necessary…

    Also, I think that a rodent on a flight is a legitimate problem as if it got loose could cause havoc with the wires of a plane. While I know some who owns a rat/hamster/ferret/mouse will protest that their darling wouldn’t get out, if they did, the danger to other passengers could be quite high if it were chewing on the wrong wires.

    The part that isn’t being talked about around this is that pet fees for one round trip flight have become astronomical. 250 r/t for a cat or dog in the main cabin?? That’s probably as much as a ticket. Its not a good system as a certification of needing a pet usually will cost 175-225 dollars (I was once tempted to know how much this cost but decided to not do it). If the airlines were smart, they’d bring in their fee well under the cost of being certified. As someone with a pet, I don’t find myself taking my pet with me everywhere, but once or so a year, It’d be easier to have my pet in another place so that I could have better care for her, e.g. having my parents take my pet when I’m in a few months of heavy travel.

    To put their fee in perspective, my building has a pet fee and its lower than flying my pet once. I get the potential mess, I get the potential for harm to other passengers, but shouldn’t those costs be borne by pet owners who do start literally sh*ting themselves or getting out? I know some people have extreme allergies and we could probably deal with those the way peanut allergies are dealt with. If airlines were to lower their fee, we could remove the fiscal incentive to lie or inflate a mental condition. Just placing a fee around 75 dollars would undercut the price of an ESA cert, and make everyone’s lives a little easier.

    tl;dr sad and mentally worrying that someone would flush a hamster; airlines, lower your pet fee so people don’t have a financial incentive to game your system.

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