Woman claims she was forced to flush emotional support animal at airline

(NBC) - A beloved pet-hamster that was flushed down a toilet has become the latest controversial case in airlines versus people seeking to travel with emotional support animals.

21-year-old Belen Aldecosea says Spirit Airlines told her to flush Pebbles the hamster down a toilet in an airport bathroom.

She says the company refused to let her bring the pet on a flight as an emotional support animal. And when she could not find an alternate mode of travel, she chose to flush the hamster.

She says Spirit staffers told her before her trip that she could bring her pet and later refused to let the animal on her flight at Baltimore Washington International Airport in November of last year.

Spirit Airlines strongly denied the allegation that an employee suggested she flush the hamster.

In a statement, the airline said, "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."

A Spirit spokesman did say that a reservation representative "unfortunately, did misinform the guest that a hamster was permitted to fly as an emotional support animal."

Spirit Airlines says on its website that it "does not accept snakes, other reptiles, rodents, ferrets, and spiders."

The hamster incident comes after a separate airline turned away an emotional support peacock at a New Jersey Airport last month.

United Airlines said the bird did not meet its guidelines.