Infected Rat Bite Kills Boy, Family Sues Petco

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Ten-year-old Aiden Pankey died June 12, 2013 from rat-bite fever two weeks after buying a rat from Petco and now the family is blaming the pet store for his death and is filing suit for strict liability and negligence.

Attorney John Gomez told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his firm filed a lawsuit Monday in San Diego County seeking an unspecified amount for the suffering endured by the Pankey family.

Aidan was infected by a rat the family bought as a mate for his pet rat Oreo. He became sick two weeks after the family purchased the rat and died the following day.

Aiden's grandmother, Sharon Pankey, stopped at Petco in San Diego so the boy could pick out a mate for Orea. He chose a black rat that he named Alex.

"He said, 'You know Grammy, when Oreo has babies I'm going to be grandpa and you're going to be a great-grandma,'" Sharon said. "One of the things he loved most, his rat, ended up in him dying because the rat we bought, we found out later, had rat-bite fever."

According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, streptobacillus moniliformis infection, or rat's bite fever, is an infectious disease that comes mostly from bites, scratches or handling an infected rodent. It can be fatal if not treated.

"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.

Petco said in a statement to ABC10 in San Diego:

"At Petco, we follow what we believe are the industry’s strongest standards for companion animal health and welfare, and we require our vendors to meet the same standards for animal care and well-being. We require our live animal suppliers to meet or exceed USDA requirements for the care and treatment of animals, as well as follow strict requirements for housing, feeding, breeding, shipping and caring for sick or injured animals. We leave specific testing protocols to be determined by our vendors unless we identify a reason for concern."

"We’re saddened by the Pankey family’s tragic loss and are very interested in speaking directly with the family to better understand their claims."

Aidan's death has deeply affected the family. Aiden's dad, Andrew Pankey, said he can't eat, sleep and needed to take a leave of absence from work to deal with his grief.

"He was my family," he said. "I'm probably down 30 to 35 pounds since then. I don't even get hungry. I just go until I pass out. It sounds bad but I just want him back."

Image via YouTube

Pam Wright

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