A San Diego family is suing Petco after their 10-year-old son died of rat bite fever.
The child, Aidan Pankey, died of the bacterial infection two weeks after purchasing a rat from Petco.
Aidan and his family made the purchase in May of 2013. Aidan already owned a female rat, and the imaginative child wanted to purchase a male rat as a companion. Two weeks after purchasing the rat, Aidan fell ill with flu-like symptoms. His grandmother took him to the doctor’s office, but the doctor was not able pin down exactly what Aidan was fighting off.
“I put him to bed after a day at the doctor’s office and the next thing I knew it just was too late,” his grandmother said. “I went into his room and he couldn’t speak. He was unstable on his feet. I got him down to my room and he collapsed on the floor. I called 911 because it was scaring me that his breathing was shallow and he seemed to be losing his ability to function.”
According to the San Diego Medical Examiner’s Office, paramedics arrived on the scene shortly after. But despite “aggressive resuscitative efforts,” Aidan was pronounced dead.
In December, the Medical Examiner’s Office released Aidan’s autopsy report. The report confirmed that the child died of rat bite fever. Now, Aidan’s family is suing Petco for strict liability and negligence. They will be seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
Attorney Hamilton Ardensen spoke about the lawsuit earlier this week.
“Obviously the family is devastated,” said Arendsen. “This was an all-around great ten year old boy doing everything ten year old boys like to do. He loved his friends, loved his family, and loved playing with animals. One day he was doing what normal 10-year-old boys do and the next day he is dead.”
Petco issued a brief response to the lawsuit and said it is conducting an internal investigation of their own.
“We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family’s tragic loss,” the company said in a statement to ABC News. “The health and safety of people and pets is always our top priority and we take the family’s concerns very seriously. We are investigating the claims and will respond when we have more information.”
Rat bite fever is a relatively uncommon infection with only 200 confirmed cases in the United States since 2004. The infection is rarely fatal and typically responds well to antibiotics.