A lawsuit filed in San Diego Monday claims that Petco is the blame for a 10-year-old's death because he was infected with rat-bite fever from a rodent purchased at one of its stores.
Aiden Pankey died on June 11 at Rady Children's Hospital from what the San Diego County medical examiner's office called streptobacillus moniliformis infection, also known as rat-bite fever, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
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The boy and his grandmother bought the rodent from a Carmel Mountain Ranch Petco store on May 27, 2013, the lawsuit claims.
"The rat that killed Aidan appeared safe, but was in fact defective and dangerous and defendants failed to adequately warn of such dangers," the lawsuit says.
People in North American usually contract rat-bite fever from infected rodents or consumption of contaminated food or water, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The disease can lead to serious illness or death if not treated.
Symptoms of rat bite fever — which include fever, development of an ulcer at the bite wound, swelling near the wound, swollen lymph nodes and a rash — usually occur seven to 21 days after exposure to an infected rat.
The family's attorney John Gomez told the Associated Press the family is overwhelmed by Aiden's death.
"It's a means to ensure this doesn't happen again," Gomez said. "Apparently there was some breakdown in procedures. They want tighter controls."
Petco Animal Supplies Inc. told the Associated Press that the company was "in the process of investigating these claims and will respond appropriately when we have more information."
Petco expressed condolences to the Pankey family.
"We are deeply saddened by the Pankey family's tragic loss," Petco said in a statement. "The health and safety of people and pets is always a top priority, and we take the family's concerns very seriously."
"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," Gomez said of Aiden.
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