NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. — A North Carolina man is facing animal cruelty charges for abandoning his pet fish after he was evicted from his New Hanover County home last month, according to news reports, marking the first time a person has ever faced cruelty charges in the county over an abused fish.
Michael Ray Hinson, 53, was arrested last week and charged with three counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals and one count of abandonment of an animal, WECT-TV reported.
Following Hinson's eviction, sheriff's deputies went to his home and noticed a sick Oscar fish swimming in a tank of dirty water. The fish was malnourished and suffering from something called hole in the head disease, which develops when they live in dirty water and are not fed, according to WECT.
The fish was taken to a pet store called the Fish Room where it is recovering, according to store owner Ethan Lane.
"When this fish came in, he was in pretty bad shape. Hole in the head is a parasite that starts in the intestines and works from the inside out, slowly killing the fish," Lane told the news station.
The disease, which is fatal if left untreated, causes lesions and allows bacteria to get inside a fish.
"Hole in the head is somewhat common in Oscar fish, but to prevent it, it's imperative you do constant water quality checks and feed your fish properly," Lane said.
Lane also said Oscars make great pets. “They are very trainable. They have huge personalities.”
New Hanover Sheriff's Office spokesman Lt. Jerry Brewer said the county takes any animal abuse very seriously.
“This is a life just like any dog or cat,” he said.
“If you harm or neglect an animal in New Hanover County, we are coming for you,” Brewer said.
Hinson, meantime, was released from jail on a $4,000 bond.