A hamster is the latest victim in the row over emotional-support animals

...


THE roster of emotional-support animals that are and are not allowed onto flights in America can sound, at times, like a retelling of the story of Noah’s Ark. Although the number allowed on for nothing has grown in recent years, airlines—which believe that the loophole is being abused by those not wanting to pay to transport their pets—are fighting back. Only last month a peacock was barred from a United Airlines flight for bending the rules, and for not even being the right size for a normal plane seat. But the debate has now taken a deadly twist. The victim is a hamster.

Belen Aldecosea, a college student, booked a flight on Spirit Airlines, a low-cost carrier, from Baltimore to her home in Florida in November for medical treatment, according to the Miami Herald, a local paper. Concern about a growth on her neck had led her to buy a hamster, whom she named Pebbles, for comfort. She called Spirit to ask if she could bring Pebbles on her flight without charge for emotional support. The airline told her she could.

The trouble began when she arrived at the airport. Spirit now says it made a mistake in telling her she could bring the hamster on board, since airline policy prohibits rodents. (Delta Air Lines also recently adopted a new policy that bans rodents, along with snakes, goats and a host of other animals with a high potential to bother neighbouring flyers). Airline officials told her she could not fly with Pebbles, and Ms Aldecosea says an official suggested that she release the hamster outside or flush it down the toilet. Not wanting Pebbles to freeze to death outside, and unable to find someone else to care for it or to drive all the way to Florida, she says she flushed the hamster down the loo before spending 10 minutes crying in the toilet cubicle.

Lots of finger-pointing ensued. Ms Aldecosea is considering a lawsuit against Spirit. The airline strongly denies that it suggested Pebbles should be flushed and calls it “incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life”. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal-rights group, says it is cruel and illegal to flush a live animal down the toilet and argues that “both the person who killed this animal and Spirit Airlines—if an employee did, in fact, advise the woman to drown the hamster—should be charged”.

We may never know whether Spirit suggested the flushing solution. So far, at least, there is no recording to back up either account of events. But it is clear that the tensions around emotional-support animals on planes are not abating. In the ongoing dispute over whether furry friends should be permitted to fly, Pebbles paid the steepest price. The best solution would be for airlines to allow well-behaved pets on board at a reasonable price in return for tightening up the rules on emotional-support animals. But there is little chance of that happening in America where airlines often treat human passengers, let alone furry or feathered ones, so poorly.



Source link

Related posts