A California family has filed a lawsuit against Petco for negligence in order to raise awareness of rat-bite fever. Their son, Aiden Pankey, a 10-year-old boy, started feeling sick just weeks after getting his new pet rat. He died the next day and until the lab work came back, the family had no idea what happened to him. The rat tested positive for rat-bite fever.
The family’s lawyer filed the lawsuit on Friday in San Diego County. On Tuesday, attorney John Gomez shared with The Associated Press that the family has filed the lawsuit. They did not specific a monetary amount, but they seek justice for the loss of their son.
Pankey died on June 12, 2013. It was ruled an accident by the San Diego County Medical Examiner. He had what is known as stepobacellus moniliformis, or rat-bite fever. The infection came form a rat that his grandma purchased to go with the first rat the boy owned as a pet. She bought the rat from Petco on May 27, 2013.
The boy was rushed to the hospital after feeling stomach pains on June 11. The lawsuit states that he woke up feeling ill. He was pale, lethargic and had a hard time walking. He was pronounced dead early the next morning.
Attorneys had not filed the lawsuit until now because they awaited lab results from the Center for Disease Control (CDC.) The rat was tested to see if it was infected with a disease, which, in fact, it was.
The boy’s parents, Andrew Pankey and Vanessa Sauer, are pushing for awareness. They feel that Petco should have tested the rat before selling it. They also feel that customers should be warned about the risk of death from the rat infection.
Rat-bite fever does not always involve a bite. According to the CDC, those who handle an infected rat are at risk for contracting the disease. Common complaints include rashes, vomiting, headache and joint and muscle pain. They claim it is treatable with antibiotics, but rarely results in death. Protective gloves and hand-washing is recommended after coming in contact with a rat.
Petco does provide safety information, both online and in their stores, however, they do not warn about the possibility of death. They stress that rats are not recommended as pets for pregnant women or children under five. They also warn that each rat has the potential to carry the disease. The company also has costumers sign a release form, but it may not hold up in court as far as the death of the young boy. They count on their supplier to test the rats. Each rat cost about $40 to test and the pet store only sells the animal for six to $11.
Pankey’s parents are suing Petco for negligence. They said that Petco is responsible for testing rate before selling them. They seek retributions for the loss of their son and how it has turned their lives upside down. They also hope to bring awareness to others about the rat-bite infection and how to prevent it. As rats gain popularity and more kids request them for pets, parents need to carefully weight the situation and the risks before making the decision to buy a rat.
By Tracy Rose