When we’re looking into bringing home the perfect pet, there are several things on our minds. How expensive is the animal? What kind of personality does he or she have? How difficult is the pet to maintain and care for? The risk of injury or death is typically not on that list – no one expects their beloved pets to kill them. But back in 2013, this nightmare came true for 10-year-old Aidan Pankey and his family. His grandmother had innocently purchased him a pet rat from Petco, a friendly animal that hardly seemed like a life-threatening danger.
Accidents happen, and Aidan was bitten by his rat. Initially, it was cause for minor concern. On June 12, 2013, however, Aiden fell very ill with serious stomach pains. Shockingly, he died just several hours later. The reason? He had contracted Rat Bite Fever from his new pet, Alex. Suffering the loss of their son, the Pankey family sought $20 million in damages from Petco. After a long court battle, the jury reached their verdict just yesterday – finding Petco not negligent.
The Pankey family has suffered enough, but they hope that this case raises awareness of Rat Bite Fever and that Petco and other stores increase their warnings. The Pankey family’s attorney argued that not enough emphasis was placed on the risk of contracting the infection or the possible deadly outcomes. But Petco’s attorney argued that they did their part, stating that although the company is trying to develop a test to identify which animals are carriers, there is still no way to know which rats pose a threat. “We remain deeply saddened by the Pankey family’s tragic loss and are committed to continuing to provide the highest level of safety to our customers in the future. The safety of people and pets is always Petco’s top priority,” Petco said in a statement to PEOPLE. “We agree with the jury’s ruling which validates our position that proper care, protocol and guidelines were adhered to by Petco in this case.” The jury felt that Petco fulfilled their duty with one juror telling reporters that the company took multiple steps to warn customers of the dangers of owning a rat. Still, a rather shocking outcome for the death of an innocent child.