Fish aren’t covered by animal abuse laws, so man’s charges dropped, NC prosecutor says

An Oscar fish was abandoned by its owner, but criminal charges against the N.C. man have been dropped.
An Oscar fish was abandoned by its owner, but criminal charges against the N.C. man have been dropped. MIAMI HERALD

The North Carolina man who was arrested on multiple counts of animal abuse after he abandoned his pet fish had the charges against him dropped Tuesday, the district attorney said.

New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said he had to drop the charges against Michael Ray Hinson because “fish are not protected under the statutes relating to the cruelty to animals or misdemeanor abandonment charges,” WWAY reported.

“We take a very dim view of anyone who would abuse any creature great or small and appreciate their enforcement of the laws to protect vulnerable animals,” David said, according to Port City Daily. “Fish are not included in this statute, however, so my office is dismissing these charges.”

The 53-year-old Hinson was accused of abandoning his pet Oscar fish after he was evicted from his New Hanover County home March 22, WECT said. When the fish was found by sheriff’s deputies March 25, it was “was in poor health and swimming in a dirty tank,” the TV station reported.

The fish was suffering from hole in the head disease, according to Ethan Lane, an employee of The Fish Room in Wilmington where the animal is rehabilitating, The State reported.

“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 said of the fish that’s being treated with medicine and a healthy diet.

Before it was discovered, the only thing keeping the fish alive was eating cockroaches that fell in its tank, Lane said.

Hinson was charged with three counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals and one count of abandonment of an animal April 3, WRAL reported. He was released after his bond was set at $4,000, according to the TV station.

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Noah Feit is a Real Time reporter with The State focused on breaking news, public safety and trending news. The award-winning journalist has worked for multiple newspapers since starting his career in 1999.