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A 10-year old San Diego, California boy has died from a condition known as rat-bite fever. Aiden Pankey died from the condition, which was contracted from one of his two pet rats.

Aiden’s grandmother bought him the pet rat at a local Petco store. The young boy wanted a male rat to go with his female pet rat so that the two could breed and have babies. But this act of kindness turned deadly.

Just two weeks after buying the rat from the local pet store chain, Aiden became ill. The new rat was seemingly healthy, and had not bitten Aiden. But the boy became very ill with flu-like symptoms, and two days later he died.

The Centers for Disease Control determined that Aiden had contracted the disease from his new rat. And although he hadn’t been bitten, apparently you don’t have to suffer a bite to contract the disease. According to the CDC, you can contract the disease by a scratch or even just handling the rodents.

It is recommended that you use gloves to clean cages, and that you wash your hands immediately after handling a rodent, whether it is a rat, mouse or gerbil – you can catch the disease from all rodents. You can also become ill with rat-bite fever by consuming food or drink that has been contaminated. It cannot, however, be passed from person-to-person contact.

Petco says it warns of the potential dangers of owning a rodent in paperwork that comes with general instructions about how to care for the pet. But the Pankeys argue that the company does not go far enough and is selling unhealthy animals. This is the basis for their lawsuit against Petco and pet supplier, Barney’s Pets.

What do you think – should pet stores be more responsible for informing customers of the potential dangers of certain pets, and should they be held liable in the death of Aiden Pankey?

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