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Boy dies from infected rat; family sues Petco

By Julie Watson / Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 04:48 a.m. HST, Feb 26, 2014

SAN DIEGO » A San Diego family is suing Petco following the death of their 10-year-old son from a bacterial infection that they say he contracted from his pet rat.

Attorney John Gomez told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his firm 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, hours after being rushed to the hospital with severe stomach pains.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner's Office ruled the cause of death was streptobacillus moniliformis infection, commonly known as rat-bite fever, after exposure to an infected rat.

The retailer in a statement expressed its condolences.

"We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family's tragic loss," Petco said in a statement. "The health and safety of people and pets is always a top priority, and we take the family's concerns very seriously."

The boy's grandmother purchased the male rat because her only grandson wanted a mate for his female pet rat, Gomez said.

"He was a bright, energetic, friendly, happy kid who actually had a prior rat, who was a female, and he had this idea in his young head of having his female rat get married," Gomez said.

The lawsuit was not filed until now because attorneys were awaiting the lab results from the federal Centers for Disease Control, which tested the rat to confirm it was infected, Gomez said. The agency could not immediately confirm the results Tuesday.

Gomez said the Pankey family was not giving interviews, but they are devastated by the death of their only son and want to raise awareness among parents.

"It's a means to ensure this doesn't happen again," Gomez said of the lawsuit. "Apparently there was some breakdown in procedures. They want tighter controls."

Petco Animal Supplies Inc. said it is "in the process of investigating these claims and will respond appropriately when we have more information."

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seaborn wrote:
So, had to be all "edgy," and buy a rat as a pet. So hip. So tragic.
on February 25,2014 | 09:19PM
bluemoki wrote:
Rats are a very common pet for children and not "edgy" or "hip" at all!! No different than a hamster or guinea pig.
on February 26,2014 | 12:03PM
Barefootie wrote:
So, this family and it's lawyers are going to sue the pet company that sold the family, the Rat? How stupid is that? The family should be holding themselves responsible for what happened to the boy, for buying the rat in the first place!
on February 25,2014 | 09:37PM
seaborn wrote:
Creatures carry diseases, even turtles at the pet store are known to transmit Salmonella. Turtles can be tested negative for salmonella one day, and the next day could shed the bacteria. People need to research animals they are considering to purchase.
on February 26,2014 | 10:07AM
niimi wrote:
on February 25,2014 | 11:27PM
hikine wrote:
Even though they were breed in an ideal environment they might still carry inborn diseases. Rats are not clean creatures and these include mice!
on February 26,2014 | 12:30AM
Giligan wrote:
Let the buyer beware.
on February 26,2014 | 05:31AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
The parents should be held accountable. Not the pet shop...
on February 26,2014 | 07:04AM
BIG wrote:
on February 26,2014 | 07:47AM
2NDC wrote:
Good reason to not play with rats.
on February 26,2014 | 08:10AM
ryan02 wrote:
If treated with penicillin, the death rate is very low. I wonder if the family waited too long to take the boy to the doctor? Hindsight is 20/20, and they must be filled with guilt, and looking for someone the blame. As for Petco, I don't know if they can tell whether a rat is infected or if there's anything they can do to guarantee the rat is not infected. If they can, they are partially responsible and should pay. If they can't, then I think it's the parents' responsibility to get all animals checked out by a vet immediately after purchase.
on February 26,2014 | 08:24AM
Solara wrote:
Just a thought. If a vet can detect any diseases the animal might have shortly after purchase then it stands to reason that the pet shop should as well. I think most people assume that pets at a pet store are disease free, not considering the fact that the animals were bred and sold by local breeders, perhaps not in the most sanitary conditions.
on February 26,2014 | 08:54AM
Mahalo wrote:
When purchasing an animal you should take it to a vet.. whether a dog or a cat or in this case a rat. Unfortunatly none of this is going to bring this young boy back.
on February 26,2014 | 08:56AM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
They better never visit our Chinatown after dark.
on February 26,2014 | 09:26AM
laachang wrote:
.....or Waikiki (night and day).
on February 26,2014 | 09:33AM
Mei mei wrote:
very tragic * sad... poor lil angel.... poor parents.
on February 26,2014 | 10:55AM
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