Airline Forces College Student to Flush Her Emotional Support Hamster Down Toilet

A college student says that Spirit Airlines told her when she made her flight reservation that she could bring her emotional support hamster named Pebbles onboard the plane. She bought Pebbles after a golf ball-sized lump developed on her neck and led to a cancer scare.

She traveled to have the growth removed, and brought her hamster with her. Spirit acknowledges that their agent told the woman this would be ok.

When she checked in for her flight at BWI an airline employee approached her to say that Pebbles wouldn’t be allowed onto the aircraft.

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.

…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.

The student says she was told to either set the hamster free or flush it.

  • The airline rebooked her onto a later flight
  • She spent several hours trying to figure out what to do. She couldn’t get anyone to come to the airport in time, and she was too young to rent a car.

She decided “it was more merciful to end Pebbles’ life quickly, in a toilet, than to leave her suffering in the cold, unforgiving environment outside.”

For their part Spirit Airlines confirmed that they refused to allow the woman to bring her hamster on the plane but denies they told her to kill it.

After researching this incident, we can say confidently that at no point did any of our agents suggest this Guest … should flush or otherwise injure an animal. ..It is incredibly disheartening to hear this Guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life.

Spirit’s pet policy explicitly precludes rodents because they’re just too classy for that. And they’ve refused to offer any compensation.

Copyright: boarding1now / 123RF Stock Photo

Meanwhile the TSA has no problem with hamsters with a spokesperson saying that they are “happy to screen a hamster,” noting that “a hamster does not pose a security risk.”

This story makes me sad. Spirit acknowledges the hamster was at the airport because they said it was ok. If the woman needed the hamster, the trauma of figuring out on the spot what to do with it must have been doubly problematic. And flushing the hamsster down the toilet is just awful to think about. Fortunately BWI airport must have great pipes.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is obviously the craziest emotional support animal story ever. Regardless of whether a Spirit employee actually told the student to kill the hamster (and my guess is there could have been a comment like “just get rid of it”), it’s clear the Spirit caused this incident by initially telling the woman she could travel with the hamster.

    Seems to me that Spirit owes this woman a new hamster and a travel voucher, and should make a donation to the ASPCA.

  2. Sadly, this person clearly needs more than an emotional-support animal for her well being if she thinks flushing an animal down a toilet will kill it quickly. Quite the opposite. The flushed hamster would find air rather quickly and be stuck in a pitch-black pipe after the water departs — until the next flush comes and the process begins again. A really slow, torturous way to die.

  3. Then she should have released it on the plane and video taped it. If the FA complained, then she could have flushed it in the plane and backed up the tiolets on the plane. Fun for everyone.

  4. Well, I guess she did not, in fact, require an emotional support animal to fly.

    Side note: this story strikes me as totally implausible and most likely false. Particularly the part about the airline telling her to flush an animal down an airport toilet; and the part about her actually doing that.

  5. I have to agree with the implausible aspect.

    This sounds way more far-fetched than a lot of other urban legends that turn out to be untrue.

  6. The part about no rodents on planes is correct. I looked long and hard for an airline that would allow us to bring hamsters on a plane and there are none that allow them. Apparently because if they get loose, they can get to the wiring to chew on it. Yeah, that’s right, terrorist hamsters

  7. @Alex – Maybe someone should stuff you for emotional support. People’s pets are important to them, regardless of what they are. Maybe someone should force your kid to execute their pet.

  8. I’m with those who think this college student’s story is implausible. There are few people who would kill their non-support pet to catch a plane. I seriously doubt there are ANY people who truly rely on an animal for emotional support who would kill that animal in such a cruel way.

    There was a story not too long ago about a woman fleeing domestic violence who left her beloved dog in a bathroom with a note, asking someone to take care of the pup. When faced with a horrible choice, that woman did not kill her pet. Because she’s not a psycho; just a woman in a difficult situation.

    Whatever is wrong with that college student, it’s nothing any emotional support animal can help. In fact, she should never be allowed to own a pet again.

  9. I think this is framed all wrong. Spirit should be thanked for showing this young lady she didn’t need the emotional support hamster after all. They gave her the courage to execute it by her own hand and proceed onto the plane.

  10. @Joey……are you always this inhumane? Inquiring minds want to know if you killed all you pets when you were young, just to give you “courage”.

  11. Parker refuses to flow on his own aircraft, because they won’t let him bring his emotional support scorpion on board.

  12. shza – agreed – clearly another faker as nobody who really cared about an animal would ever flush it down the toilet. can you imagine somebody who flies with their dog just abandoning it because an airline refused service? no i think 99% would cancel their trip and take the animal home or find someone to care for it.
    Personally I don’t think rodents or hamsters belong on planes (or for that matter any animal except a seeing eye dog)

  13. Shame on Spirit! Not only do they not care about animals they could care less about their customers. Someone should go to jail for flushing a live animal down the toilet. It’s outrageous animal abuse. I had a hamster as a pet as a child and it was a wonderful pet. How would a dog or cat lover like it if their dog or cat was killed by an airline for absolutely no reason? This is just outrageous!

  14. @Boraxo — I’m not a hamster expert, but you may be correct about the accuracy of this story. Even if the woman wanted to, would it be physically possible to flush a live hamster down a toilet?

  15. TSA has no problem with hamsters, and that is supposed to impress us?

    The same TSA idiots who let a peacock get through to the gate?

    Travel to other countries in this world, and you easily see how incompetent and lazy our TSA employees are here in the USA.

  16. This reeks of a lawsuit scam. Also, WHO flushes a live animal down the toilet??? She should have made other arrangements. Sorry.

  17. Let’s make something clear. Spirit did not kill the pet. The woman killed the pet. She did not have to kill it.

  18. She’s so emotionally weak that she has to fly with a effing hamster, but she has the emotional strength to decide to flush it…

  19. stacy at the geographical of michgan state university like to date a cosmetic gril for for life social security addresses of comfortable afternoons thie movies of attraction with a assocatied ph.d like to live in town and have thye best with even at the cosmetoloisgt thank you kary Curtis stacyp.s. being fingerprinting by polk state community college sheriff campus. art,

  20. Look, I love my little Yorkie as much as the next pet owner but I can fly without her holding my hand in her paw. The whole idea that people are SO DAMAGED they cannot fly without an ANIMAL is absurd! Where does it stop? I pointed this out in an article last week when the ridiculous Flying Peacock story came out. WTH? Are we supposed to allow any idiot with any “Pet” on board? Lots of folks commented about their large tigers, pet elephants, pet monkeys, pet snakes, rodents, lizards, etc. Are you going to make someone who may have a severe phobia sit next to an 8 ft snake or an 8 lb iguana because you need emotional support? Who checks the cleanliness? Rabies certifications? How does an airline KNOW that the support rat you brought aboard is the one you have a rabies vaccine certification form for is the one who actually GOT the shots and how do I know as the passenger sitting next to you that your rodent won’t bite me? The internet was ablaze last year over a soldier who was crying and upset because he had ptsd and his “support animal” had attacked and nearly ripped the face off of a fellow passenger for simply BEING IN THEIR SEAT! While I feel for the soldier, I FEEL FOR THE POOR GUY WHO IS DISFIGURED FOR LIFE because of his dog! While I love to travel, my thinking is that IF you cannot fly without an animal, then don’t travel, catch a bus, rent a car or find another way! We’ve gotten carried away with it. I have NEVER heard of a seeing eye dog that attacked anyone, nor an epileptic warning dog, although it may have happened but you rarely see seeing eye dogs ( think I have literally only ever encountered a dozen in my life) and I can see where they are a TRUE necessity. The “emotional support” dogs may make you “feel” cozy but a Zanax will do the same thing! Take the pill and get on the plane. And I’m with Alex, if this goofy girl seriously only considered a) flushing her pet b)setting it loose and considered nothing else? Then she doesn’t NEED to ever be given any other pets but the stuffed animals and she needs some of those emotional support PHARMACEUTICALS!

  21. As a pet lover & the owner of two precious dogs(my fur babies), I cannot imagine ever doing anything to harm them. Yes, if Spirit airline told her to flush poor pebble, that’s pure cruelty. However, the airline didn’t hold a gun to her head to do it. Even if a gun was held to my head, the trigger would have to be pulled because there’s no way I could ever live with myself if I was to do something like that. I can’t imagine how terrified Pebble was before she died. Just absolutely horrible and she should never, ever allowed to be near a pet again much more owns one. I belief that if she had call a shelter or Aspca and plead her situation, one of them would have helped her. There’s no excuse for what she did. Just plain murderous. Every time I think about it, i feel really upset.

  22. Curious if anyone commenting actually flies Spirit Airlines. I don’t, and I’m guessing none of you do either. The likely reason- we are not poor.

    I’ve been poor before. And I’ve felt the terror of having literally no money to deal with travel mishaps. She wasn’t even traveling frivolously- it was for a cancer treatment.

    So imagine being her. You called and asked- your hamster is allowed to fly with you. A young girl traveling alone for chemo, or radiation, or surgery, etc. You have $50 in your checking account and one plane ticket home that you can use right now- or you’re stuck. Basically permanently, with no way home that you can figure out.

    THAT is who flushed a hamster. It’s very easy to say “She could’ve done something else.” but read between the lines- extreme discount plane ticket, traveling alone for cancer treatment. Show some compassion.

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