Family Of Boy Who Died Of Rat-Bite Fever Sues Petco

Aidan Pankey, 10, died only a day after getting a fever. Doctors confirmed he died of Rat-bite Fever, and his family believes Petco is to blame.

Family Of Boy Who Died Of Rat-Bite Fever Sues Petco
KGTV / Aidan Pankey's Family

They say he developed a fever on a Monday and was dead the next day. Now, a California family is suing Petco for Aidan Pankey's death, which doctors attribute to a rare disease from rat bites.

"Medical examiners ruled that 10-year-old Aidan Pankey died from Rat-bite Fever last summer. The boy had purchased a rat from a Petco in San Diego." (Via WPVI)

"The family waited to file the suit pending lab results testing the rat to confirm it was infected. Petco now investigating, but insists they practice the most rigorous safety standards in the industry." (Via WFTS)

Pankey's family says he loved his female rat Oreo so much, he wanted to find a male rat and let them breed. The family's attorney says he died two weeks after buying that male rat. (Via ABC)

KGTV in San Diego broke the story of the family's lawsuit Monday night and notes most viewers commenting on it had never heard of Rat-bite Fever. They talked to Pankey's father.

REPORTER: "Aidan's death has destroyed the family. Aidan's father says he can't eat, sleep or work."

ANDREW PANKEY: "He was my family. Umm, I'm probably down 30 or 35 pounds." (Via KGTV)

Petco released this statement to KGTV: "At Petco, we follow what we believe are the industry’s strongest standards for companion animal health and welfare, and we require our vendors to meet the same standards for animal care and well-being."

The Petco store's vendor supplying the rats declined to comment on whether they test the animals, but KGTV sent a reporter undercover and aired a San Diego Petco employee's response Tuesday on whether pet rats pose any risk.

EMPLOYEE: "No. No parasites, no diseases."

REPORTER CRISTIN SEVERANCE: "Any, you know, danger at all in getting him?"

EMPLOYEE: "Umm, he might bite a little bit."

SEVERANCE: "But like nothing would happen?"


The CDC says Rat-bite Fever's warning signs include fever, vomiting and joint pain, among other symptoms. However, it notes antibiotics like Penicillin are highly effective if the patient is diagnosed and treated in time.

Petco's statment went on to say the company was saddened by Pankey's death and it's "very interested in speaking directly with the family to better understand their claims."