Metro Detroit stores say don’t fear pet rats despite California boy’s death

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Feb 26, 2014 in Rat News | Subscribe

A lawsuit filed earlier this week that blamed a national pet retailer for the death of a 10-year-old San Diego boy whose family said he contracted a fatal bacterial infection from his pet rat hasn’t prompted pet stores to stop selling the critters.

Pet shops in metro-Detroit, such as Classic Pet Supply in Warren and Pet Supplies Plus in Detroit, continue to offer customers the rats.

“We haven’t had any issues with them from our wholesalers and obviously, it’s a question of where you get products from,” said Gary Serfass, manager of Moby Dick Pet Store in Waterford.

Rich Green, who works at Lou’s Pet Shop in Grosse Pointe Woods agreed: “I would think it’s a rarity. We sell a lot of rats… They can be friendly. They’re fairly easy to take care of.”

David Hallisey, spokesman for California-based Petco, which the boy’s family is suing, confirmed to the Free Press that the chain is selling rats, too.

Aidan Pankey died in June 2013, a couple of weeks after his grandmother bought him a male rat, whom he named Alex, to be a companion for his female pet rat.

The cause of death was a streptobacillus moniliformis infection, also known as rat-bite fever, the San Diego County medical examiner’s office concluded.

“According to the CDC, rat bite fever is rare in the United States and antibiotics are highly effective at curing the disease. Because of the high prevalence of asymptomatic infection among rodents, testing and treatment of rats is not practical,” said Petco’s written statement. “Adherence to simple precautions while handling rats can reduce the risk for RBF and other potential rodent-borne infections….We do not want anyone to become unnecessarily alarmed, but companion animals of all kinds are potential carriers of a number of diseases that require certain safeguards to ensure safety. We recommend that pet parents always wash their hands before and after handling companion animals and/or habitat contents.”

With early treatment, the prognosis for rat bite fever is excellent, though if left untreated, the death rate can be as high as 25%, the National Institutes of Health Web site reports.

The Pankey lawsuit, which was delayed to get the results of CDC tests on the rat, seeks an unspecified amount of money for the family’s suffering.

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