Family Sues Petco After Their 10-Year-Old Son Dies From Rat Bite

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A San Diego family is suing Petco after the death of their 10-year-old son, Aidan Pankey, because they say it was a bacterial infection that he contracted from his pet rat which caused his death.

Attorney John Gomez told The Associated Press yesterday that his firm had “filed the lawsuit Monday in San Diego County seeking an unspecified amount for the suffering endured by the Pankey family, whose son, Aidan, died June 12, 2013.” The lawsuit hadn’t been filed until now because attorneys were waiting on the lab results from the federal Centers for Disease Control, which did tests on the rat to confirm it was infected, said Gomez.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled that the cause of death was streptobacillus moniliformis, which is otherwise known as rat-bite fever.

Aidan’s grandmother had bought the male rat, which Aidan named Alex, because he wanted a mate for his female pet rat, according to Gomez. He got the rat on May 27, 2013, and woke up the night of June 11, 2013, in severe pain. He was pale and could barely walk, according to the lawsuit. He died at 1:09 a.m. the following day.

According to the lawsuit, the rat looked safe, but Petco should’ve been aware of its health and didn’t properly test for the disease. It also said that Aidan’s death has caused his parents “emotional and economic hardship” and the retailer neglected to post adequate warnings about the possible risks, especially for kids.

Petco Animal Supplies Inc. has stated that it’s “in the process of investigating these claims and will respond appropriately when we have more information.”

According to the CDC, you can contract rat-bite fever from scratches or bites from infected rats, mice and gerbils, or even just by handling rodents with the disease without a scratch or bite. You can also contract it by having food or drink that is contaminated with the bacteria.

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