San Diego Jury Favors Petco Animal Supplies Over 10-Year-Old Boy's Death From Rat-Bite Fever

By Claire Parker, Parent Herald April 21, 04:00 am
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Female white rats stand in a basin at an animal laboratory. A 10-year-old boy died from rat-bite fever.
(Photo : China Photos/Getty Images)

A 10-year-old boy died after he contracted an illness from a rat bite. They purchased the rat at Petco Animal Supplies and a San Diego jury favored the company.

The jury said that Petco Animal Supplies was not negligent or liable in the death of the 10-year-old named Aidan Pankey, who died on June 12, 2013. His family rushed him to a hospital due to severe stomach pains and later, the hospital ruled that the cause of death was a bacterial infection from streptobacillus moniliformis also known as the rat-bite fever, CBS News revealed.

The victim got the illness from the infected rat and his father, Andrew, filed a lawsuit against the company. He sought $20 million in damages.

Initially, a panel found that Petco Animal Services knew that the pet rat was dangerous when used by a consumer. The jury decided, however, that Petco did not fail to warn the consumers about the potential danger of handling the rats they sell. Even the supplier of Petco Animal Services, Barney's Pets, did not act negligently on the matter.

Petco Animal Services took the necessary steps to protect their consumers by testing the animals and posting warnings. They, however, can't determine what percentage of the rats they sell have the infection.

The company released a statement on the matter after the jury's decision. They said that they remain deeply saddened by the Pankey family's tragic loss and "are committed to continuing to provide the highest level of safety to our customers in the future. The safety of people and pets is always Petco's top priority."

The grandmother of Aidan, Sharon Pankey, said she hopes the public will learn the lesson from this case, which is the that buyers should always beware. She said that consumers should know Petco Animal Services could test an individual rat to see if it is infected, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Meanwhile, rat-bite fever is an acute, febrile human illness caused by the bacteria found in rodents, rats or mice. The transmission is through urine or mucous from the rodent.

Most cases occur in Japan but selected countries such as United States, Africa, Australia and Europe have specific strains of the virus. Other animals can also contract the disease.

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