North Carolina Man Who Allegedly Abandoned Pet Fish is Charged with Animal Cruelty

A North Carolina man was arrested and charged with animal cruelty this week for allegedly abandonding his pet fish after being evicted from his home last month.

Michael Ray Hinson, 53, was detained yesterday by officers from the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office. Officials said an Oscar fish had been discovered inside his former residence in Wilmington. The suspect was evicted on March 22; deputies found the pet three days later.

The tank was filled with dirty water and the pet was suffering from "hole in the head disease," a dangerous condition that is sparked by poor water quality and a lack of food.

Alongside the cruelty to animals charge—which is a misdemeanor—Hinson was also hit with one count of animal abandonment. The police department's spokesperson said it was the first time a suspect had been charged in the county with cruelty over a pet fish, WECT reported. The former owner was assigned a $4,000 bond yesterday and has since been released from jail.

An employee at The Fish Room in Wilmington, where the animal is currently being treated, told local newspaper The State that the fish had been living on cockroaches that fell in its tank. Staff member Ethan Lane said the fish did not appear to recognise typical food pellets.

"It came in with a disease," Lane told the paper. "It was a pretty severe case of the disease, which opens sores and lesions on the fish's head. It is an infection that can be fatal."

Lt. Jerry Brewer, of New Hanover County Sheriff's Office, told WECT: "This is a life just like any dog or cat. If you harm or neglect an animal in New Hanover County, we are coming for you."

Records published by the local police department, seen by Newsweek, confirmed Hinson's arrest earlier this week.

AquariumInfo describes Oscars as having "impeccable memory" and states they can grow to be quite large, reaching 8 inches long within a year of birth. It notes that Oscars may need more maintenance than other types of fish and recommends water changes at least twice a week to get rid of waste. It says they are "messy eaters and constantly defecate" digested food.

A fully-grown Oscar fish can grow to be 16-inches in length, with a lifespan of up to 20 years. The pet rescued from Hinson's former home will be treated with medicine and a better diet, The State reported. It may later be put up for adoption or even gifted to the sheriff's office, Lane said.

North Carolina Man Who Allegedly Abandoned Pet Fish is Charged with Animal Cruelty | U.S.