UK & World News

  • 26 February 2014, 13:51

Rat Bite Death: Boy's Family Sue Pet Shop

The family of a 10-year-old boy who died after he was bitten by an infected rat are suing the pet store which they claim sold them the rodent.

Aidan Pankey, from San Diego, California, died less than three weeks after his grandma purchased the pet as a mate for his female rat.

He woke up in severe pain during the night with a fever and stomach problems, and was pale, lethargic and could barely walk, according to the lawsuit.

The youngster was taken to hospital but died hours later from a condition called streptobacillus moniliformis infection, commonly known as rat bite fever.

John Gomez, the attorney for Aidan's family, said: "He was a bright, energetic, friendly, happy kid ... who had this idea in his young head that his female rat would get married."

A spokesman for Petco, the retailer which allegedly sold the diseased rat, said it was "deeply saddened by the Pankey family's tragic loss" and was investigating the claims.

"The health and safety of people and pets is always a top priority, and we take the family's concerns very seriously," he added.

According to the lawsuit, the rat, called Alex, appeared safe.

However, the boy's parents, Andrew Pankey and Vanessa Sauer, claim Petco should have known about its health and failed to adequately test for the disease.

They say negligence led to Aidan's death, which they claim caused emotional and economic hardship, and allege the retailer did not display adequate warnings about the potential risks, especially for children.

The family's attorney, John Gomez, said the lawsuit was "a means to ensure this doesn't happen again".

"They want tighter controls," he added.

Rat bite fever is a rare disease that is contracted from bites or scratches from rodents such as rats, mice and gerbils.

It can also be picked up from handling an infected animal or by consuming contaminated food or drink.

The disease is not spread from person to person and is normally treatable using antibiotics.

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