Pebbles was a doctor-approved emotional support animal assigned after the student developed a growth in her neck while attending Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.
We previously discussed the increasing number of people bringing therapy and comfort animals on flights ranging from dogs to peacocks to small ponies to turkeys. Airlines have begun to push back on this trend to bar certain animals. Aldecosea (who is form Miami Beach, Florida) was told that she could not take her comfort hamster Pebbles on the flight. She claims that this was a reversal of what she was told over the telephone before the flight.
She says that she had no option available to her since her family and friends were unavailable. She said that the Spirit employees suggestion that she let the animal free or flush Peddles.
Aldecosea says that she skipped her flight and tried to rent a car without success because of her age. She said that she did not feel that she would let Peebles free in the freezing cold to die from exposure or suffer injury. That is when she took the walk to an airport bathroom. She is quoted as saying “She was scared. I was scared. It was horrifying trying to put her in the toilet. I was emotional. I was crying. I sat there for a good 10 minutes crying in the stall. . . . I didn’t have any other options.”
Spirit admits that an employee misinformed Aldecosea that Pebbles wold be allowed on the flight. It denies however that any employee suggested the flush option. The airline spokesperson added “it is incredibly disheartening to hear this guest reportedly decided to end her own pet’s life,”
Clearly, Aldecosea could sue for emotional distress in a tort action as well as other claims. Spirit could countersue for her disparagement of its company based on false statements from its employee. It sounds like the denial of entry for Pebbles, however, occurred as a counter where it might not have been recorded. If it were to go to trial, Aldecosea could face a hostile jury over her decision that she had no other option but to drown her pet. One option was not to take the flight.
There is also the issue of a charge for animal cruelty since the lawsuit would be an admission of animal cruelty (including the statement that the description of having trouble flushing the animal). Ironically, the more difficulty and trauma associated with the act in the torts lawsuit would strengthen the criminal allegation to the same degree.
What do you think?