Pet store visit caused trauma, suit says

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jun 23, 2013 in Rat News | Subscribe

A young woman says a trip to a pet store turned into a nightmare when she was bitten by a domesticated rat she had hoped to buy.

Trisha Fulawka is suing Petland, alleging she is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares, lingering injuries and continued pain after she was repeatedly bitten by a rat last year at the company’s store on Regent Avenue West.

“(A rat) caught my eye,” Fulawka, 25, told the Free Press of her trip to the pet store on Feb. 14, 2011. “It was active and playful and looked kind of friendly.”

But friendly it wasn’t, she said.

In a statement of claim filed in the Court of Queen’s Bench, Fulawka alleges when, at the instruction of the store’s staff, she reached in and attempted to pick up the rat, the creature “immediately bit her on both her hands numerous times.”

In the court documents, she alleged that, in a matter of seconds, the rat bit her a minimum of six times, on her right and left index fingers, right thumb and left palm.

“There was lots of really, really deep puncture wounds,” Fulawka said. “I was bleeding all over the place. It was a pretty traumatic experience. I’ve never been attacked by any kind of animal like that.

“I was shaking. There was so much blood. They leave such deep wounds.”

The allegations have not been proven in court. A statement of defence has not been filed.

Petland district manager Lori Anderson said the rat that bit Fulawka was a baby, adding it was being kept at the rear of the store for more socializing because it was skittish and bit when handled.

Anderson said Fulawka picked up the baby rat against the advice of the store’s staff, adding she was insistent she wanted to handle it.

“This lady was very insistent, that she had 14 pet rats and she was very, very experienced and she didn’t believe that she would be having a problem with them.”

Anderson said there was, indeed, a lot of blood and it took a while to stop the bleeding.

After the incident, more time was spent with the baby rat to socialize it, and it was later sold to another person, who reported no issues with the pet, Anderson said.

“Rats actually make very great pets,” she said.

“They’re super-intelligent, very, very sociable, they usually love to be handled, they’re very affectionate,” Anderson said. “Of course, once in a while you can get, like any animal, a rogue one that isn’t quite as social — you just need to work with them a little bit more.”

The court documents state Fulawka sought medical treatment and was given antibiotics. There has been a buildup of scar tissue at the injury sites and she was warned by medical specialists and her attending physician there is a potential for long-lasting nerve damage in the index finger of her right hand.

She had to undergo a series of medical appointments, tests, procedures and therapies, causing her to miss work, the statement of claim states.

Fulawka alleges as a result of the attack, she has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, suffers recurring nightmares and has developed a fear of small animals. She alleges she has had to cut back on her employable hours due to the pain and discomfort in her right index finger, and the attack aggravated an existing medical condition.

Fulawka stated Petland staff assisted her in cleaning up the blood. She alleges they put a warning sign on the animal’s cage and one store employee told her the rat had bitten other customers.

The documents state Petland owed a duty of care to Fulawka to ensure she was safe in its store, and Petland breached its duty by failing to protect customers from attacks by animals in the store and by failing to post warnings near the rat cage.

Fulawka is seeking unspecified aggravated and special damages as compensation for the pain and difficulty she suffered and continues to suffer.

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