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North Carolina man charged with animal cruelty after abandoning pet fish

This "is a life like any dog or cat," a sheriff's officer said of the fish, which was found diseased and with no food.

A North Carolina man was charged with animal cruelty and abandonment after leaving his pet fish in filthy conditions.

The fish's owner, Michael Hinson, was evicted from his Wilmington, North Carolina, home last month and left the fish behind in a dirty tank with no food, authorities said.

The 6-inch-long fish was found at the home last week, and authorities took it to The Fish Room, a shop that sells pet fish and supplies, where it was discovered that the fish was suffering from hole in the head disease, which causes lesions.

"It's amazing this fish survived," shop employee Brett Edwards told NBC News on Monday. "I have personally never seen a case this bad."

Image: Michael Hinson faces charges after he abandoned his pet fish.
Michael Hinson faces charges after he abandoned his pet fish.New Hanover County Sheriff's Office

Edwards said that the fish had about 15 holes in its head when he was brought to their store last week. Now, the fish just has dents where the holes had been.

Edwards said fish develop the disease by being left in "very, very poor conditions for quite some time." The fish had to survive by eating cockroaches that fell into the tank, according to Edwards.

Hinson, 53, was charged Wednesday with one count of abandonment of an animal and three counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. He couldn't be reached by The Associated Press, and court records don't list an attorney.

Sheriff's Office Lt. Jerry Brewer in New Hanover County said it's the county's first animal cruelty case involving a pet fish, but this "is a life like any dog or cat."

The Fish Room has been treating the fish's disease and expects it to make a full recovery, although Edwards said it's hard to tell when it will be 100 percent healthy because of how severe the case was. Once the fish does recover, officials will most likely find a new home for it.

"We're doing everything in our power to get this fish back healthy," Edwards said.