College student says she flushed her emotional support hamster down the toilet at suggestion of Spirit Airlines

Key Points
  • An attorney for student Belen Aldecosea said Spirit Airlines told her she could bring the hamster on board.
  • Her attorney is discussing with Aldecosea whether to sue the airline.
  • The airline denied telling Aldecosea to flush the hamster.
Pebbles the hamster.
Source: Adam Goodman.

A college student flushed her pet hamster down a toilet after Spirit Airlines wouldn't let her fly with the animal, according to her attorney.

The student said a Spirit Airlines employee suggested she flush Pebbles, her hamster, the student's lawyer, Adam Goodman said. The airline denies that was the case.

Spirit had given Belen Aldecosea a green light to bring the hamster on board, a Nov. 29 email from Spirit showed.

"Belen, I can't begin to enough apologize that our agent was unable to provide you with the correct information regarding animals allowed on-board our aircraft," the Spirit representative wrote.

When she arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport in late November, the airline wouldn't let her bring Pebbles with her on board.

Spirit denied that one of its employees suggested that she flush the hamster.

"After researching this incident, we can say confidently that 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. "It is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet's life."

She is considering filing a lawsuit, Goodman said.

Aldecosea, 21, wanted to get home because she was dealing with health problems at school, but she was too young to rent a car, Goodman added.

Aldecosea considered letting the dwarf hamster run free but thought it would be more humane to quickly end Pebbles' life, according to The Miami Herald, which first reported the incident.

"I didn't have any other options," she told the paper.

The news comes as airlines are introducing stricter rules for emotional support animals after crew and passengers complained about allergies, soiled cabins and biting. Starting next month, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines will require written confirmation that travelers' emotional support animals are trained.

Last month, United denied boarding to a peacock a passenger wanted to bring on a cross-country flight for emotional support. The airline said the animal did not meet size and weight standards.

WATCH: Airlines are rethinking their emotional-support animal policies

Airlines are rethinking their emotional-support animal policies