updated 6/7/2006 10:51:15 AM ET 2006-06-07T14:51:15

PetSmart Inc. has suspended animal adoptions at 22 of its pet supply stores in Maryland and Virginia after a kitten tested positive for rabies.

The kitten was part of a litter of six from the chain’s Greenbelt, Md., store. All six animals have been euthanized, said Cindy Sharpley, director of Last Chance Animal Rescue, the organization that supplied the kittens.

Sharpley said the store learned the kitten was infected Thursday after the owner asked to return the animal because it was lurching and unsteady. John Marsiglia, manager of the Greenbelt PetSmart, said the kittens were in the store May 14 to 19.

Paul Amirault, district manager for PetSmart, said more than 3 million animals have been adopted in the Phoenix-based company’s 17-year history with only one other rabies exposure two years ago, involving a dog.

The kittens had been examined by a veterinarian and neutered before being brought to the store, Sharpley said. Even though pets are vaccinated before they are adopted, there is still an incubation period.

“It is a tragic incident, and there was nothing that anyone could have done to prevent this from happening,” Sharpley said. “We have adopted 23,000 animals in the last five years, and this has never happened before.”

Prince George’s health officials are asking that anyone who visited the Greenbelt store and came into contact with the kittens in the adoption center call the health department at 301-583-3750.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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