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California boy dies after being bit by pet rat

Many animal bite stories involve an owner who fails to adequately restrain an animal or protect others against being injured. As a result of this failure to act, liability is typically addressed at pet owners. Interestingly enough, a California animal bite case is taking a slightly different spin: The victim's family has filed a claim against the pet store where the animal was purchased.

In May 2013, a 10-year-old boy was thrilled about the opportunity to bring a new pet rat home. His grandmother had given him the animal as a gift. Within in a couple weeks, however, the young boy fell violently ill. After suffering for one day, the young boy passed away. It's believed that he died from "rate-bite fever," an infection that can be transmitted from rodents to humans.

Reports from the Associated Press say that people can develop an infection if they are bitten, scratched or simply make contact with a rat. In many cases, this medical issue can be treated with antibiotics, but some instances are serious enough to lead to death. Unfortunately, this boy's life was cut tragically short, largely because his family wasn't made aware of the danger posed by the bacteria carried by pet rodents.

Since the incident, the boy's family has decided to take action against the pet store where the animal was purchased, because the store failed to provide clear, proper warnings about rat-bite fever. The rat in this case was actually the child's second pet rat. Despite knowledge of the animals, the family didn't know what kind of threat an infection could pose.

Although the family has lost a lot, they ultimately hope that a successful wrongful death claim will lead to changes within the national pet store chain. By bringing awareness to the issue, they want clear warnings and information to be provided to customers who decide to buy rats. As such, this kind of incident could be prevented in the future.

Source: Associated Press, "Family sues Petco after boy dies from 'rat-bite fever'," Feb. 25, 2014

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