In the first case of its kind in New Hanover County, Michael Ray Hinson was charged Wednesday with three counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty to a fish, and one count of abandonment of an animal.
The 53-year-old allegedly abandoned his 6-inch-long Oscar fish, worth $40-$50, after he was evicted from his apartment, WECT first reported.
The 1-year-old fish was found on March 25 swimming in a dirty tank and suffering from head and lateral line erosion, or “hole-in-the-head” disease. The pet was removed and turned over to the Wilmington pet shop The Fish Room, where it is currently being rehabilitated, according to The State.
“It came in with a disease, hole in the head, which is a parasite that is caused by poor water quality and malnutrition,” employee Ethan Lane told The State. “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.”
Lane told The State that the fish had survived on cockroaches that fell into its tank after it had been abandoned.
Hinson was reportedly given a $4,000 unsecured bond and released from jail. He could face a maximum 1 year in jail and a court-determined fine for misdemeanor animal cruelty in North Carolina.