North Carolina man charged with animal cruelty for neglecting pet fish

A North Carolina man has been accused of animal cruelty after authorities found his Oscar fish living in squalid conditions, according to WECT

Michael Ray Hinson, 53, was arrested by New Hanover County police last week for allegedly failing to take care of his pet fish. Hinson, who was evicted from his Wilmington home last month, reportedly abandoned the 6-inch-long fish in a dirty tank. Deputies from the police department's civil unit discovered the sea critter three days after Hinson permanently left the house. 

Photo: New Hanover County Sheriff's Office

Due to poor water quality and malnutrition, the fish was found with 15 holes in its head, NBC News notes. It survived by eating cockroaches that fell into its tank. Authorities brought it to The Fish Room, a local pet fish shop, where the fish is currently being treated. 

"When this fish came in, he was in pretty bad shape," Ethan Lane, a store employee, told WECT. "Hole in the head is a parasite that starts in the intestines and works from the inside out, slowly killing the fish." 

Symptoms of hole in the head disease, otherwise known as hexamitiasis, include lesions on the fish's head and excretion of stringy, white feces, according to online pet food retailer Chewy. Treatment can range from using medicated fish food to adding medication to the water. 

"It's amazing this fish survived," Brett Edwards, another store employee, told NBC. "I have personally never seen a case this bad." 

RELATED: Explore a Parisian aquarium that offers sanctuary to unwanted goldfish: 

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Aquarium offers sanctuary to Paris' unwanted goldfish
Emie Le Fouest from Paris brings her goldfish named "Luiz Pablo" to Paris aquarium as part of an operation launched to take care of hundreds of goldfish abandoned by French holiday-makers, in Paris, France, August 20, 2018. Picture taken, August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Goldfish are seen in a quarantaine basin as Paris aquarium launched an operation to take care of hundreds of goldfish abandoned by French holiday-makers, in Paris, August 20, 2018. Picture taken, August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
A young boy watches a goldfish aquarium as Paris aquarium launched an operation to take care of hundreds of goldfish abandoned by French holiday-makers, in Paris, August 20, 2018. Picture taken, August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Emie Le Fouest from Paris brings her goldfish named "Luiz Pablo" to Paris aquarium as part of an operation launched to take care of hundreds of goldfish abandoned by French holiday-makers, in Paris, France, August 20, 2018. Picture taken, August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
Emie Le Fouest from Paris brings her goldfish named "Luiz Pablo" to Paris aquarium as part of an operation launched to take care of hundreds of goldfish abandoned by French holiday-makers, in Paris, France, August 20, 2018. Picture taken, August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol?
This picture taken on August 17, 2018 shows goldfish that were abandoned by individual keepers displayed after quarantine at the Aquarium in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
Thi picture taken on August 17, 2018 shows abandoned by individual keepers goldfish displayed after quarantine at the Aquarium in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This picture taken on August 17, 2018 shows abandoned by individual keepers goldfish displayed after quarantine at the Aquarium in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - This picture taken on August 17, 2018 shows abandoned by individual keepers goldfish displayed after quarantine at the Aquarium in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOEL SAGET/AFP/Getty Images)
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Hinson was charged with one count of abandonment of an animal and three counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. He was released later on $4,000 bond. 

Lt. Jerry Brewer of the New Hanover County Sheriff's Office said Hinson is the first person in the county to be charged with fish-related animal cruelty. 

"But this is a life just like any dog or cat," Brewer pointed out to WECT. "If you harm or neglect an animal in New Hanover County, we are coming for you." 

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