A lawsuit was filed by the family of a 10-year-old boy, suing Petco Animal Supplies after the boy had died from contracting an illness coming from a rat.

The jury sided with Petco, finding it was neither negligent or liable in the death of the kid, who died of a streptobacillus moniliformis infection. The boy’s father is seeking $20 million in damages.

Boy and rat
Aidan owned two pet rats. Image credit: CBS8.

A boy and his pet rat

According to the family’s lawyer, Petco is aware of their pet rats potential risk of infection. He claims that the store chain puts the information on a companion animal card that’s sold with the pet at hand. On the other hand, Petco’s lawyer argues that the company does everything in its power to have their rats disinfected, but that it is not possible to know how many rats are infected, which is why they warn about the disease risk, simply because “they know they can’t get rid of it.”

The rat was bought by Aidan’s grandmother. He then called the rat “Alex” and cared for him alongside a female pet rat he had prior. Alex was brought home in May 2013, but in June, Aidan was feeling intense pain, fever, and stomach problems. Aidan’s family’s lawyer claims that the boy was pale and could not walk. He died shortly in the early morning.

The jury agrees that Petco did warn Aidan Pankey’s family sufficiently about the dangers of owning a pet rat, which protects them from having to pay any damages. Image credit: Getty Images.

After his passing, the rat was handed over to the CDC to see if it was infected. The CDC confirmed so and the lawsuit was filled immediately. So far, Aidan’s family has refused to provide any comment, and their lawyer claims that the lawsuit is a vehicle to prevent this from happening ever again.

“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. It’s a means to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” assured Attorney John Gomez on behalf of Aidan’s family.

Petco released a statement expressing their condolences and assuring that the company takes very seriously the health and safety of their clients, which is why they include warnings in their potentially hazardous pets that are up for sale. They openly recommend against pregnant women and those with weak immune systems from getting a pet rat.

Streptobacillus moniliformis infection, also known as the rat-bite fever, is a common but lethal disease that is mostly originated from unprotected contact with infected rodents. This includes mice, hamsters, rats, and gerbils. It can also be spread by ingesting contaminated food, although it cannot pass from person to person.

The best way to treat it is by applying penicillin, and casualties are oftentimes rare if treatment is administered promptly. Infections are also quite uncommon, but the CDC assures that those who live and work alongside rats are much more exposed to the disease. Furthermore, most cases go unreported because the infection can be cured with different types of antibiotics.

Source: CBS News