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Pets

Jury Sides with Petco in Case of Pet Rat that Bit and Killed 10-Year-Old Boy

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Petco was found not negligent by a San Diego jury on Thursday in the case of a 10-year-old boy who died from a bacterial infection his parents said he contracted from his pet rat, which was purchased at the store.

Aidan Pankey, 10, died two weeks after he received the animal from his grandmother after contracting a rare infection called Rat Bite Fever, according to CBS 8. The boy’s father, Andrew Pankey, filed a lawsuit against Petco in late February 2014 asking the company for $20 million in damages.

“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.”

Plaintiff attorney John H. Gomez argued that Petco was aware that the rodents could carry the disease and did little to warn possible consumers. He said the store should stop selling the animals unless they can test each rat to check if they are infected.

Petco attorney Kimberly Oberrecht countered that although Petco was working to develop a test, there is no way to determine how many rats are carriers.

“They warn about it because they know they can’t get rid of it,” Oberrecht told the jury. “It’s still very rare.”

The jury informed Judge Eddie Sturgeon that it had reached a decision in the case late Wednesday, according to CBS 8.

One of the jurors told reporters that they felt the pet store took multiple steps to warn customers of the possible dangers of owning a rat, according to a video shared by Gaby Rodriguez of NBC 7 on Facebook.

According to NBC 7, Aidan fell sick on June 12, 2013, suffering severe stomach pains. He was rushed to the hospital but died hours later.

The victim’s grandmother, Sharon Pankey, told reporters after the ruling that she hoped to warn the public of the dangers of owning a rat through this case.

“I never knew that a store like Petco would sell a rat that had such a high percentage of carrying [the disease],” she said. “I thought Rat Bite Fever was something wild rats carried.”