A family that is suing Petco after the death of their son have entered the courtroom in regards to their case. Aidan Pankey, who was 10 when the incident occurred, contracted rat-bite fever from a pet rat purchased at a San Diego Petco in June 2013. He died within weeks of coming home with the new pet.
After Aidan’s death, the CDC determined the source of the rat-bite fever was indeed his new rat. In 2014, Aidan’s father, Andrew Pankey, filed suit against Petco. The hope was to increase awareness that Petco doesn’t test the rats that are sold to customers.
Petco initially asserted that the duty to ensure the rats were free of disease was not theirs based on them being living beings. However, a judge sided with Aidan’s family, as reported by CBS 8, determining the pets sold from stores such as Petco are products.
Another point of contention in the case is whether Petco did enough to inform families of the potential risks associated with the animals sold there. Aidan’s father believes that Petco didn’t do enough to inform customers of the potential risks. Petco states they do provide a warning to customers in the form provided that reviews proper care instructions for the animal.
As reported by the Daily Mail, Aidan’s grandmother purchased the rate for him, a male Aidan named Alex. Aidan already had a female rat at home. Two weeks after Alex was purchased, Aidan fell ill. He had flu-like symptoms for two days before he died. Aidan’s family had taken him to the hospital, though he was released after doctors sent him home, believing he had the flu.
Rat-bite fever can be contracted from bites and scratches from infected animals, or even by handling an infected animal without receiving a bite or scratch. It is also possible to contract the disease by consuming contaminated food or drink. Rat-bite fever is not passed from person to person.
The common treatment for rat-bite fever is antibiotics, such as penicillin, and, according to the CDC, the disease is rarely fatal. People who interact with pet rats are more likely to contract the disease as well as individuals who work in laboratories that use rats for their work or those living in a rat-infested building.
The CDC recommends wearing protective gloves when handling rats and when cleaning their cages. Additionally, regularly washing one’s hands, especially after direct contact. It is also important to not touch one’s mouth area after being in contact with any rodents that could carry the disease, including rats, mice, and gerbils.