Town Council Candidate Charged With Animal Cruelty

A three-month animal cruelty investigation has led to criminal charges being filed against a local businessman and candidate for town council.

Wilson’s Mills Police Chief A.Z. Williams said Wednesday his agency had been investigating “allegations of animal abuse from concerned citizens in the community.”   The allegations involved three horses owned by Joseph E. Parrish of Talton Farm Road, Smithfield, an address in the Wilson’s Mills city limits.

Chief Williams said police were notified three months ago about the horses being malnourished and severely underweight.  Police said multiple veterinary clinics and knowledgeable Equine/horse personnel examined the animals and determined they were not being cared for in a proper manner.

Parrish was charged this week with four misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals for the horses he owned, Chief Williams told JoCoReport.

“The charges relate to a pattern of long-term neglect over several years causing irreparable physical harm, suffering and damage to three adult horses,” the police chief said.   “There is really no excuse. It was a long-term pattern of neglect.”

Parrish operates a business in Smithfield and is a candidate for the Wilson’s Mills Town Board and is on the Nov. 5th ballot.

Parrish spoke by telephone to JoCoReport Wednesday afternoon. He said he was notified by police Wednesday morning the warrants were issued for his arrest and was asked to turn himself in as soon as possible.

“I don’t understand it. My vet has been out there and gave them paperwork,” Mr. Parrish said by telephone. “I don’t understand what’s going on. They came out to look at my horses and they did.  One had a bad hip and his ribs were kinda’ showing. I was feeding him every day and giving him corn every day.  (Another) horse has had arthritis for a year.”

“I’ve had ’em since 2000 and they have an 8 acre pasture with a pond and drink water and everything. The (animal control) lady called me and said when you get the chance stop by town hall and sign a paper. I need you to sign a paper she said and I went by Monday and signed it, and I don’t know if I signed something to charge me with abuse,” Parrish said.

“I followed every rule they told me. I met the police chief out there. I don’t know why it’s turning into such a big thing. The next thing they are looking me to serve a warrant on me,” Parrish continued. “I am running for town council again and I don’t know if this is something to show me as bad blood, but I am certainly not going to let a horse starve when I have an 8 acre pasture, water and everything.”

“All of a sudden police came to my house today (Wednesday). They told me to go down to the sheriff and turn myself in. I think something ain’t right here. I cooperated from day one. Someone had called in and said they could see his ribs and he was malnourished. What else do you do?  I don’t know who called or turned it in. The Animal Control lady, she came out and we looked and it went to the next step and the next step. I have been cooperating all the way through.”

Police Chief Williams said early-on in the investigation, Mr. Parrish voluntarily surrendered custody of the three horses to a Winston Salem equine rescue organization.

Two counts of animal cruelty involve one horse.  The remaining two counts are for the other two horses.

Parrish said he has contacted an attorney about the matter Wednesday and plans to turn himself in soon.  He said he plans to fight the charges against him.   “If I was abusing a horse or anything like that, why would I have a barn, pasture and water?”

JoCoReport reached out to HERO Horse Rescue in Winston Salem to get an update on the horses.  As of our news deadline we had not heard back from the organization.  And at last report Thursday, Parrish had not turned himself in to be served with the misdemeanor animal abuse warrants.