A San Diego jury has cleared animal retailer Petco of negligence in the death of a 10-year-old boy who became sick after handling a pet rat sold by the store.
Aidan Pankey died after contracting Streptobacillus moniliformis, more commonly known as rat-bite fever, a bacterial infection than can be transmitted by bites, scratches, and through rodents' urine, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Although the jury said that Petco should have been aware of the potential dangers posed by pet rats, they also determined the retailer had adequately fulfilled its duty of warning customers of those dangers.
“They did what they could to prevent any kind of spread of disease,” jury foreman James Wigdel said, noting the store had endeavored to take measures to protect the community from rat-bite fever, including testing its rodents and advising customers on how to handle them safely. Petco's supplier, Barney’s Pets, was also cleared of negligence.
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“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,” read a statement published on Petco's website following the hearing. “The safety of people and pets is always Petco’s top priority.”