Family Blames Pet Bird for Killing Father, Putting Daughter in Coma

A Corpus Christi, Texas, man died and his daughter spent weeks in the hospital because of a diseased cockatiel bought from a PetSmart store, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday by the man's family.

Joe De La Garza, 63, died of psittacosis, also known as parrot disease and parrot fever, KRIS 6 News reported. It is an infectious disease caused by the bacterium chlamydophila psittaci and can be passed from numerous bird species to humans.

De La Garza's family told KRIS 6 News that De La Garza's daughter Amanda bought the cockatiel from PetSmart on Sept. 30, 2006. Less than a month later in October, De La Garza died. Amanda was sickened and fell into a coma. She spent weeks in the hospital and has since recovered.

The family filed the suit in Nueces County District Court to get PetSmart to stop selling birds that may "kill their customers."

"I feel as though PetSmart didn't show responsibility, didn't make the public aware that this disease is fatal," Amanda De La Garza told KRIS 6.

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PetSmart is battling a similar suit in Rhode Island.

In May 2005, the Rhode Island Health Department confirmed three people died after receiving organs infected with a rodent virus that originated with a hamster that was purchased at PetSmart in Warwick, R.I.

A woman is suing PetSmart over the Rhode Island case, claiming her husband, a transplant recipient, died after receiving a liver that was infected with the rodent virus.

Click here for more on this story from KRIS 6.