Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC

A man was recently charged with animal cruelty after abandoning his pet fish Oscar. Yep, you read that right, a fish. Not some exotic fish in expensive tanks, but a fish in a bowl.

The guy had been evicted from his home and apparently left the fish behind with the rest of most of his belongings. The man was charged with one count of abandonment of an animal and three counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. The sheriff’s office lieutenant was quoted saying that it’s the county’s first animal cruelty case involving a pet fish, but “this is a life like any dog or cat.”  

Now, when my girls were little, they often came home from the county fair with these little gold disposable pets in a bag that they won by tossing a ping pong ball in a fishbowl. I knew that it was just a matter of time that we’d find “Fred” the fish floating belly up and there would be hysterics followed by a backyard burial of said fish. Let’s face it, a fish placed in a bowl usually isn’t long for this world.

In this case, however, the county district attorney saw things differently than the county sheriff and said that the man is no longer charged with animal cruelty and abandonment because fish aren’t protected under related statues that define “animal” as amphibians, reptiles, bird and mammals, excluding humans.

So, what in the world does this have to do with our profession? It’s just that when I read the report all I could think was that the original county sheriff must have been an ex-surveyor! I mean, the guy had been evicted from his home. Evicted. He can’t pay his rent and he has no home, but the sheriff expects him to feed his fish and cart it around?

And they found the fish in a dirty bowl with no food weeks after they guy was evicted. Again, he’s evicted. He can’t come in and feed it and clean out the bowl. (It’s amazing the fish lived that long anyway.)

And why didn’t the landlord come into the place as soon as the eviction happened and find the fish? Or did the landlord wait and then call the sheriff to get back at the guy who didn’t pay rent? (We may never know.)

The thing is, this just has the feel of one of “those” citations we get where we scratch our heads and ask, “What the heck?” Right?

But like coming out of a good Informal Dispute Resolution, common sense prevails, and the crazy goes away. I mean, it went away under a legalistic explanation — how animals are defined — instead of, “Why in the world did you charge this guy with fish abandonment in the first place?” But at least it went away.

Yep, just like life in our lane!

Just keeping it real,

Nurse Jackie

The Real Nurse Jackie is written by Jacqueline Vance, RNC, CDONA/LTC, Senior Director of Clinical Innovation and Education for Mission Health Communities, LLC and an APEX Award of Excellence winner for Blog Writing. Vance is a real-life long-term care nurse. A nationally respected nurse educator and past national LTC Nurse Administrator of the Year, she also is an accomplished stand-up comedienne. The opinions supplied here are her own and do not necessarily reflect those of her employer or her professional affiliates.