Koi Story: Property owner tends to abandoned fish at defunct eatery

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A trio of koi left behind in a shuttered Chinese restaurant haven’t been (entirely) abandoned to their fishy fate.

A sign posted to the door of Midtown Plaza’s Buffet City announces the tenants were locked out of the restaurant by their management in mid-September. The Dallas-based property managers, Henry S. Miller Realty Management, contend the buffet operators didn’t pay their rent and other fees.

The locks on the building have been changed – just beyond the dusty glass of the eatery, three ornamental Common carp are swimming languidly in the murky water inside their tank in the restaurant’s atrium.

The plight of the fish sparked concern on some local social media accounts, a rising tide of consternation and a grassroots effort to save the foot-long koi from starving to death.

Don’t worry, says B.J. Owen, the fish are being cared for.

“The property management company, their maintenance man is taking care of it,” the city’s special services superintendent said Tuesday. Since the Sept. 20 notice was posted, “He’s feeding them, and he’s trying to find a home for them.”

The City of Kilgore was alerted to the condition of the fish Friday, Owen added, and he’s been taking calls since.

Notably, whether the property managers are caring for the fish or not, the city’s hands are tied. The law treats fish differently, Owen explained, from animals like cats, dogs and horses – municipal workers can’t simply break-in and haul them off.

In animal mistreatment cases, “We can get a warrant for a seizure on dogs, but not goldfish.”

Meanwhile, it’s likely in the management company’s best interest to ensure the survival of the three koi.

“They have a value,” Owen confirmed: such ornamental carp – originally bred in Japan – range from a few dollars to hundreds or thousands and, in exceptional cases, $1 million or more.

Well-kept, an average koi can live 25 to 35 years; a 50-year-old koi is not uncommon, and some have been reported to live 100 or 200-plus years.

Report suspected animal abuse to the City of Kilgore at 903-984-5081.

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