A candidate for town council in Johnston County has been charged with four counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
Joe Parrish of Wilson’s Mills is accused of neglecting three horses on his farm just off Bear Farm Road. The investigation started three months ago after the police received a tip from a citizen.
Parrish surrendered the horses in August after police gathered information from veterinarians and horse clinics. Wilson’s Mills Police Chief A.Z. Williams said they waited until now to press charges because they needed more complete medical examinations of the horses.
“The medical records were the definitive proof we needed,” he said.
Police went to arrest Parrish on Wednesday, but no one was home, so Williams said they left a message and “directed him to turn himself in,” which he did Wednesday night.
The News & Observer called Parrish for comment and was referred to his attorney, Allen Wellons, who said, “The charges are not substantiated by the facts, and that will be shown.”
Wellons said Parrish bought the horses for his children and grandchildren and had been taking care of them. The charges do not make sense, he said.
Parrish owns Parrish Cleaning Service Inc. and is a former member of the Wilson’s Mills Town Council. He is one of five candidates running for two seats on the Town Council in the town of about 2,500 residents 27 miles southeast of Raleigh. Election day is Nov. 5.
“Pattern of long-term neglect”
In photos and videos provided to The News & Observer, the horses appear thin and one has an injured back leg, walking with a limp. In another photo, that horse’s ribs are showing.
Williams said the alleged cruelty has been going on since 2016 and called it “a pattern of long-term neglect.”
The horses were taken to a farm in Forsyth County. Laura Mitchell, who helped move the animals, described driving up to a fire burning beside the horse stable and feces piled up outside the stable doors.
“I’ve never seen conditions like this,” Mitchell said.
She said that it was difficult to load the horses, which she described as senior in age, because they were afraid of the fire but that workers eventually got them loaded into a trailer. They will remain on the farm in Forsyth County until a long-term solution is found.