A woman made national headlines when she was kicked off a plane over her emotional support squirrel. As the airline defended its decision, the victim decided to fight back, sharing her side of the controversy — and she says she’s “out for blood!”
Cindy Torok was scheduled to travel on flight 1612 from Orlando, Florida, to Cleveland, Ohio, on a Tuesday night, but things didn’t go according to plan. After she boarded the flight with her “emotional support squirrel,” she was asked to leave. The plane sat at the terminal, delayed for a full two hours because she refused to get off when asked.
According to Cindy, who suffers from anxiety, the 11-week-old squirrel is like her baby and the animal helps reduce her symptoms, especially on a stressful flight. Knowing it might pose an issue, however, Monica Torok, Cindy’s daughter, said she called Frontier Airlines twice to confirm the squirrel, named Daisy, would be allowed to go with her mother on the journey.
Monica said she was told it would be allowed if Daisy was in a pet carrier and her mother had the appropriate note from her doctor, CBS News reported. The airline, however, tells a different story. Although the airline claims to have known Cindy was bringing an emotional support animal on board, they alleged that they had no idea it was a squirrel.
“The passenger noted in their reservation that they were bringing an emotional support animal, but it was not indicated that it was a squirrel,” Frontier explained. And, that’s what posed a problem since “rodents, including squirrels, are not allowed” on flights, the airline furthered.
Once the airline allegedly realized the problem, Cindy was made aware of the policy and asked to deplane. When she refused, authorities had to get involved. Cindy said the Orlando Police then gave an ultimatum: Get off the plane voluntarily or get arrested. Cindy also claims she was threatened with trespassing as well as having Daisy taken away from her. As the situation escalated, all of the other passengers were forced to leave the plane before Cindy was eventually escorted off too.
As she was pushed from the aircraft through the Orlando International Airport in a wheelchair, many frustrated passengers booed and threw insults at Cindy, furious that a squirrel delayed their travels. Her embarrassing departure was also captured on camera and shared to social media, where she was further humiliated. Although Cindy took a flight to Cleveland without Daisy the following morning, she said she plans on continuing to fight back and will be hiring an attorney, claiming she took several precautions before boarding the flight.
Meanwhile, her daughter Monica says she is “upset and angry” with “the way it had to happen.” But, she is proud of her mother “for sticking up for her rights,” she said. “They were wrong for the way they treated my mom,” she added. Calling the incident “just heartbreaking,” she continued, “We’re going to call the ADA (American with Disabilities Act) and talk to them and see what they have to say about it.” She furthered, “We got to fight for your rights. You can’t let people take your rights away.”
Not everyone, however, feels the same. Some people have actually blasted Cindy on social media, criticizing her actions. “People like her ruin it for the people that really need service animals,” one person wrote, as another claimed, “The law provides for Service animals. Emotional support animals are NOT service animals and are not legally required to be accommodated. If a privately owned business wants to allow them, they can set rules. And a wild animal should never be a pet, let one a support animal. IMHO.”
Others were much bolder in their condemnation of Cindy. “I help train ACTUAL service dogs. People like this seriously piss me off. Service dogs train for years for their certification…bs like this is just flat out insulting,” Wendy K Harrison wrote. “I get she loves her squirrel…but a tree rat is NOT a service animal, no matter what she’d like to claim. People like her & others who falsely claim their (generally poorly trained) animals are therapy animals or service workers do serious insult & damage to the rules and regs for FULLY TRAINED AND PROPERLY CERTIFIED service dogs.”
But, perhaps it was Cindy Vitale who made the best point. “I am completely empathetic to those who struggle with any mental illness, including anxiety. I understand and have seen first hand the tremendous difference an emotional support animal can make in the life of someone with anxiety,” she wrote. “However, people need to think carefully, when choosing such animals, about what they will be doing and their lifestyle (eg: travel, etc) with their chosen pet. If you want a peacock, squirrel, goat or donkey as support, that’s fine in your home, but no one should expect airlines, restaurants, hospitals, etc to accommodate nondomestic, exotic, oversized, or difficult to control animals. Common sense has to prevail.”